In the heart of rural Ottawa, Carp BIA highlights agricultural traditions, outdoor amenities

Village of Carp BIA

For the Village of Carp BIA, it’s all about celebrating what local farmers “bring to the table” and ensuring that Ottawa residents are aware of everything the community has to offer, regardless of the season.

Located 10 kilometers west of Kanata, the village of around 1,500 residents is perhaps best known as the location of the Diefenbunker Museum. But there is also a small but active business community. 

According to chair Jennifer Stewart, the Village of Carp BIA represents around 40 businesses in the area. Given the rural location, that includes agriculture, manufacturing and service-based businesses, but also includes a variety of restaurants and coffee shops, yoga and music studios, hardware stores and gift shops. 

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“We aren’t traditionally very commercial or corporate in the village,” said Stewart. “I think sometimes we like being the underdog.”

It’s a small, tight-knit community and one that Stewart said deserves a place on the Ottawa map. 

“There’s a very unique small-town, agricultural flavour,” she said. “You come into this breath of fresh air that has a very walkable 15-minute community. We respect and appreciate the agricultural aspects of our community and we’re working really hard to preserve it.” 

September is usually a busy month, capped off with the annual Carp Fair, a staple since 1863 organized by the local agricultural society. On Sept. 7, the BIA will host its first Carp Village Harvest Supper to celebrate the turn of the season. It’s an event that Stewart said they’ve wanted to host for years and tickets have already sold out.

“I think more people, post-COVID, are really cognizant of where their food comes from,” said Stewart. “They’ve seen the world and borders shut down. So I actually think there’s been an appreciation for our farmers and that’s why we’re doing the harvest supper. We’re making our best effort to demonstrate our community pride and our appreciation of what farmers literally bring to the table.”

She added that local farmers have always been a major driver in the community, with the farmers market being an important part of what makes the village a destination. 

“In the spring, summer and fall, our main street is bustling. It’s great to see. COVID was difficult for many businesses and a lot of businesses love the boost in revenue during the weekends. The more people we can get up on a regular basis, the better.”

But once the harvest season winds down, so, too, will the traffic. 

“(The challenge) for us is still getting people in the village in the winter months,” said Stewart. “In the summer, you can’t find a parking spot, but after the fair, it can get a little sleepy.”

It’s why Stewart said the BIA is leaning into marketing efforts, which include collaborations with local media outlets and a biannual business magazine called The Villager. 

“We want to be making sure people know about us and remember the amenities we offer,” she said. “We’re not just a summer destination.”

The goal, she said, is to highlight Carp to those who have never been. For example, Stewart said, during the winter, Carp is a prime location for outdoor enthusiasts, with hiking trails, snowshoeing, an outdoor skating rink and a winter festival. 

“It’s fostering a sense of pride among citizens in the community about each other’s accomplishments and growth. And it’s also drawing attention with the larger city of Ottawa to what Carp has to offer,” she said.

“That’s why we do these partnerships; that’s why we do The Villager. We really felt like a huge connector in business and community is sharing stories, so we’ve really put in a concerted effort to share the stories of local businesses.”

She added that while businesses have struggled in the past few years and more recently as inflation has sent costs soaring, the support they provide each other has been invaluable. 

“It’s a very tight-knit community,” she said. “From the residential and commercial perspective, during COVID, that was so critically important. I’ve never appreciated both the business and personal network of friends I’ve created as much as I did then.”

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