Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork finds new revenue stream in growing field of agritourism

Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork
Marshall Buchanan introduces visitors to the cattle during an Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork farm tour. Photo provided

What started as a humble vegetable garden to feed a small family has grown into an Ottawa Valley agri-tourism destination offering everything from accommodation and dining to education and tours. 

In April, Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork received the new tourism product award from the Ottawa Valley Tourism Association for the farm’s focus on agri-tourism, including its farm-to-table dining events.

The original 100-square-foot barn, which was built in the 1860s, was renovated to transform the hayloft into a dining and event hall where Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork hosts farm-to-table dinners for up to 60 people, featuring entertainment and music as well as an organic, home-grown meal.

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Kathleen Lindhorst, left, accepted the award for new tourism product from the Ottawa Valley Tourism Association. Photo provided

A farmhouse on the property offers overnight accommodations for up to six people, and the farm also has a new space that will function as a bike stop and market.

“It’s all about this newest revenue stream,” said Kathleen Lindhorst, who owns the business with husband Marshall Buchanan. “People can park their bike or vehicle and linger and come to events here, get a farm tour, learn about the operations, enjoy the food… These are all the new elements.

“It’s interesting. People really like the vibe, and they slow down and disconnect from their electronic devices and connect with nature.”

The farm is positioned at the intersection of several motorcycle and bicycle routes, which Lindhorst said creates a “hub” in the new market and gathering space.

“People can come and learn about regenerative agriculture, meet the animals, view their role in the cycle of things, and you could add on … a picnic, or buy products, or stay overnight,” she explained.

Lindhorst grew up in Montreal, where she trained as a dietician at McGill University and earned her master’s in nutrition. After working a variety of nutrition roles, Lindhorst moved to the Arctic to work with First Nations and Inuit on healthy eating, food security and maternal and child health programs.

She says she has always felt deeply connected to her food — and where it comes from.

“Growing up, we always had a garden,” explained Lindhorst. “It’s fundamental to who I am to have agency over the food I eat and know where it comes from and how the environment is treated.”

Lindhorst was returning from the Arctic when she met Buchanan, an environmental specialist and professional forester teaching natural resources technology to Gwich’in and Inuvialuit students at Aurora College in Inuvik, N.W.T.

In 2000, Buchanan and Lindhorst bought the 50-acre farm in Scotch Butch, a rural community about 35 kilometres west of Renfrew. What began as a hobby farm soon grew into a full-scale operation. The original property has expanded to include 75 acres across the road and is home to Scottish Highland cattle, free-range chickens and dairy goats, as well as fields upon fields of heritage fruits and vegetables.

“We’ve always been organic, but now we’re more than organic because we do regenerative agriculture,” said Lindhorst. “Our animals output from eating plants here and then we use their manure to compost and feed the soil for the vegetables to grow.

“It creates great-tasting vegetables and we know it’s free from any herbicide or pesticide or chemical,” she continued. “We eat all of it, but we also want to make sure anyone who buys from our farm has that confidence of where it came from.”

Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork received the award in recognition of its community dining experiences, which are held in the refinished hay loft of an 1860s barn. Photo provided.

As she looks to the future, Lindhorst said she and Buchanan would like to offer more educational opportunities about agriculture, farming and sustainability.

“All the other aspects would continue, but for small farms to survive, they need a variety of revenue streams,” she said. “We both have an education element of our work, so we’d love to continue more with the educational aspect within agriculture.”

By learning more about agriculture, farming and nutrition, she said it helps everyone grow.

“We have school trips here and the kids are fascinated to watch me pull a carrot straight out of the ground,” said Lindhorst. “People are so disconnected from their food because we can get anything we want at the grocery store any time of the year.

“People used to have family on farms they could visit, but that’s getting more rare,” she continued. “We’ve lost our connection to the farm.”

In September, Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork will participate in a “farms open” initiative, involving local farms “opening their doors” for people to see the gardens, the operations and the animals.

“People really like to come and look at the animals and I understand, because every day the animals make me smile and being somewhere like this can really change you,” said Lindhorst. “The centre of our logo is a person growing like a plant, which I think is fundamental to who we are, because on a farm, it isn’t just crops. 

“We like to help people grow and grow ourselves.”

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