ClearWater Farm is a historic property on Lake Simcoe that aims to encourage people to grow, prepare, and share nutritious food using organic and regenerative practices.
Located in Georgina, about an hour’s drive on Highway 404 north of Toronto, it was initially founded by early settlers and owned by one family for over 180 years. Nowadays, the Ontario Water Centre (OWC) runs it under a leasing agreement with the Town of Georgina.
The OWC is an educational charity with a mission to deepen young peoples’ connection with the natural environment, marrying the arts, science, and technology to cultivate a more sustainable future.
By showing how healthy organic food is also good for the surrounding land, water, local economy and community fabric, the team running and managing ClearWater Farm regard it as an educational hub, intending to provide compelling learning opportunities catering to all ages.
Colin Dobell, Executive Director of the OWC, says a lot for the farm’s visitors are “motivated by school-age kids visiting our site for our educational programming. They come back with their parents or family on a Friday or Saturday to explore, or to consider volunteering on the farm or weekends in the ClearWater Foresters’ program.”
ClearWater Farm’s educational programs also showcase water-wise and other nature-friendly practices to help visitors discover eco-sensitive choices they can make on and around their properties.
Spend two minutes at the farm, and you’ll instantly see why it appeals to so many people. Though it is is only open Friday and Saturday afternoons, that doesn’t stop visitors from dropping by outside those times.
“People are curious, they want to see the farm, and we’re happy to show them around,” Dobell says. “Folks can visit our farm-stand which sells organically-grown vegetables from the farm, as well as from other local producers. They can walk the grounds, or get a tour and visit the nearby shoreline park to go swimming, or experience Lake Simcoe.”
The property is unique insofar as agri-tourism goes. There’s an outdoor kitchen, wild spaces with walking trails, a children’s garden and food hub. Last year, a new, traditional timber-framed barn was built to complement the existing greenhouses. Dobell says the next installation will be a bio-digester (a tank designed to digest organic material biologically).
In the fields and greenhouses, you’ll find tomatoes, radishes, eggplants, shisito peppers, beans, kale; even pearl oyster mushrooms grown on inoculated logs in the wooded areas.
Much of the farm’s produce goes into its Community Supported Agriculture boxes, which involves delivering about a dozen organically grown fruits and vegetables that are distributed to drop spots throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
“Georgina is an ideal location because it is simultaneously close to the GTA, but also far enough away to maintain a rural feel,” he says. “We call it ‘the near north’. Georgina has more lakeshore, more green, tree cover, and more agricultural land than any other municipality in the GTA.”
By Agatha Podgorski
– Podgorski is the Director of Community Engagement at the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. Follow her on Instagram: @agapod