by Deron Johnston
In the previous local food article, a recent food tour in the Bay of Quinté area was highlighted. The impact on the writer was significant, because of the obvious potential that this type of tourism could represent, and how under the right conditions it could be duplicated in the North Grenville area. There are plenty of great agri-food businesses in this area which could fit nicely into this sector of economic development.
With all of this in mind, the following is an example of one possible local agri-food tour that would not only be an excellent value for the participants, but also a great showcase for just a fraction of the great local food businesses in the area.
A bus from Kemptville Transportation Service picks up all of the participants at the south side parking lot of the North Grenville Municipal Centre. Armed with a desire to have a great local food experience, the enthusiastic group departs at 9:00 am for a full day of learning, food and fun.
The first stop is the Rideau Roastery on Whitney Road in Kemptville for a much needed cup of coffee made from coffee beans that are roasted on site. This small-scale coffee bean roasting business currently sells their coffee online and supplies several local restaurants and retail businesses with both bulk orders and their own label of packaged coffees.
Stop two is Mountain Orchard, for a warm sample of their apple crisp to accompany the fresh coffee. Less than fifteen minutes southwest of Kemptville on Clark Road, it has been a popular spot with Eastern Ontario apple lovers for years. With nearly 10,000 trees and eleven different varieties of apples on twenty five acres, it is an ideal spot for people who enjoy picking their own, or for picking up some fresh apple baking products or cider.
Stop three is Beking Poultry Farm in Oxford Station on Jochem Road, for a sample of their delicious pickled eggs. Due to bio security concerns because of the approximately 23,000 free range laying hens on site, they don’t promote tours, but are happy to sell eggs to the public at the farm. This family business has been going strong for over 40 years, and their eggs can be found at seven different farmers markets and at selected food retailers in Ottawa and the surrounding areas.
Stop four is Day Brighteners Farm, for a fresh salad of greens that are grown in one of their two 48’ X 16’ greenhouses which operate year round. This non-certified organic farm is contained on two acres and located on Slater Road in Heckston. This enterprising farm has worked with a local nutritionist to host events where a meal is served, after which guests learn about making healthy food choices in a comfortable, informal setting.
Stop five is Blue Gypsy wines on Lindsay Road in Oxford Mills, for a tasting of their fruit wines and meads on their brand new patio. This former apple orchard has been operating since 2011 and recently began to sell their cranberry wine in several Eastern Ontario LCBO stores, prompting a significant increase in production. They have recently added solar panels, making it a good example of a small business reducing its carbon footprint while also reducing energy costs.
Stop six is the Two Rivers Food Hub in Smiths Falls, allowing tourists to see the type of facilities and equipment used by local food producers to make their food products. The Hub is a non-profit facility that was created to allow local food producers to not only process, but also store and sell their products through the Hub’s facilities and distribution network. The Hub also has an online ordering program through their website allowing people to buy their favourite local foods online.
Final stop on the tour is the South Branch Bistro on Clothier Street in Kemptville, for a fine meal made from local ingredients supplied to them by the Two Rivers Food Hub and the other businesses from the tour. The meal allows tourists to witness the culmination of all of the aspects of the local food system that they’ve seen throughout the day. This local food restaurant already regularly uses Two Rivers and other local food suppliers to support a menu filled with local flavours.
The genius of a local agri-food tour like this would be that any number of other local food businesses could step into any one of these stops, without any loss of value, or without changing the experience for the participant.
The table seems to have been set quite nicely for an individual, organization, or private company to step forward and work with local agri-food businesses on developing a tour.