The fall harvest is finally here! Summer has come and gone, the kids are back in school, and our local food producers are hard at work reaping the bounty from their months-long efforts of toil in the soil. Today, in these hyper-connected, digital times of online everything, it is more important than ever to reconnect with the land, and remember not only where our food comes from, but how it’s grown. With the fall harvest season ramping up, it’s the perfect time to do just that.
Here in York Durham Headwaters, we are in the heart of rural food country, where food is not only grown, it’s celebrated as a way of life. What’s more, you can visit many of our local farms, meet the farmers, and take part in activities, events and educational programs that connect you to the land on which your food is grown. Nurture your body and your soul this season by visiting one of these three YDH farms, and connecting with your food and the hands and hearts that grow it.
5438 Second Line, Erin
Farmers Val Steinmann and Brent Klassen like to say that they’re in the business of transformation. Heartwood Farm and Cidery invites you to immerse yourself in the complex ecosystem that is the working farm, and learn about the transformative philosophy of nature and food—whether it’s sunlight to plants, grass to meat, fruit to juice, sap to syrup, or cider to conversation. Here, you will find regenerative agriculture in action, with a vision towards sustainable food production being at the forefront of all Heartwood does.
There are many activities you can take part in at the farm. For instance, book a spot at the Heartwood patio for some delicious cider, where an intimate woodland setting offers a great opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of this mighty regenerative farm. Or, you can take part in an adventure on the farm, and romp through Heartwood’s livestock pastures and orchards on a guided tour. This is a great activity for adults and outdoor-loving, school-aged kids. You can even have cider with the cows in a 90-minute experience with Farmer Val. You will learn about climate-friendly regenerative grazing, and how cows can help to heal the planet. This is the perfect package for adults and engaged youth—cider can be of the spirited or non-spirited variety.
If you’re looking for more than a couple of hours on the farm, book a stay! That’s right, you can spend the night on the farm in one of three separate “glampsites” with fully-furnished, canvas platform tents. Sunrise Suite and Orchard Oasis are nestled amongst Heartwood’s pastures and orchards, so you can truly immerse yourself in life on the farm. There is also Spruce Sanctuary, which offers a more secluded experience in one of Heartwood’s woodland zones. You can’t get more connected to the land than that!
1614 Metro Rd. N., Willow Beach
This flagship farm of the Ontario Water Centre is on a mission to help kids grow by connecting them with nature. ClearWater Farm, home of Potato the Chicken, is an education centre which aims to demonstrate through interaction the concept of living in harmony with the environment. In addition to producing wonderful, organic food, farming at ClearWater Farm follows regenerative agriculture methodologies, which support the environment and the health of nearby Lake Simcoe.
ClearWater runs a number of initiatives for participants of all ages. Sign up for a weekly basket program, in which organically grown fruits and veggies are delivered to your door each week. You may also want to consider signing up for the Winter Wonder Box Program, so that you can extend your harvest season with fresh greenhouse veggies and greens to nourish you all winter long. Visit the farm on Fridays and Saturdays to select your own fresh, locally grown veggies, and while you’re there, explore the farm and have some fun. ClearWater offers a self-guided tour that allows you to connect with nature. This activity is great for kids, because it provides them with the opportunity to develop their innate curiosity. Pick up a map at the farm stand, and be sure to check out all the fun places like Mud Mountain, the hugelkultur arena, the Trading Tree, the forest, the greenhouses, the barn and the biodigester.
Of course, we could not tell you all about ClearWater Farm without highlighting their innovative and inspiring Young Agripreneurs program. This initiative was designed in partnership with and funded in part by Royal Bank of Canada, and is an apprenticeship to support youth who wish to find long-term employment in regenerative agriculture. The program provides up to a half acre in the first year on which participants can learn. In the second year, the availability of land is increased as participants demonstrate the ability to execute a strategy and show a continued interest in agriculture.
Who knows? Our next generation of local farmers could be set on their future path this fall season with their first visit to ClearWater Farm!
1025 Cragg Rd., Uxbridge
Owned and operated by Jim and Leslie Forsythe, Forsythe Family Farms has been reaping the rewards of the land since 1972. Here, it is all about local food fresh from the farm. Forsythe offers naturally raised meats and eggs sold at the on-farm market, and runs a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) food share program, where you invest in the harvest to support the farmers, in return for a share of the crop fresh from the field. In addition, Forsythe Family Farms has a number of educational programs which encourage you to get outside and experience the joy of farm life, and which aim to strengthen our connection to the world around us in an engaging way. There are programs for all ages, for groups and schools, and for online learning at home.
The pick-your-own season at Forsythe begins in June with strawberries, but during the autumn months, families can have fun in the pumpkin patch, picking their own jack-o-lanterns. Pick-your-own is a great way to get your hands dirty and reconnect with the land that sustains us. Of course, if you come to pick a pumpkin, you’re going to want to stay for the family-friendly activities. This fall season, you and your kids can get lost in Forsythe’s corn maze, or go on an adventure on Forsythe’s farm and forest trails.
There is also the incredible Giving Garden. You see, Forsythe has set aside one-and-a-half acres of land to grow vegetables that people can take and give to others who don’t have access to fresh produce, or who may need a helping hand. The goal here is to enable generosity in others, and families, individuals, groups and corporations are all invited to participate in the garden by helping plant, maintain and harvest the crops growing. Excess produce is donated to a local food bank and to community groups who are able to distribute it to hungry families and those in need.
Connect with the land this season in YDH. Share your experiences with us on social media by tagging us at @VisitYDH! We’d love to see what you got up to.
Story by Katherine Ryalen