Your chance to tour real Ontario farms

If you’re interested in touring real Ontario farms and meeting real Ontario farmers – but have no way of knowing how to go about that – here’s a new option for you.

Yes, this week you can head down to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto and learn all sorts about food and farming in Canada, but for the rest of the year, these new virtual farm tours provide a neat alternative. 

The farm gates have been “virtually” opened on a series of new online farm tours.

Online visitors can meet real Ontario farmers and tour real farms that grow grain, field vegetables, fruit and greenhouse vegetables – without putting their boots on.

The project is part of ongoing efforts by Farm and Food Care to help connect consumers to farmers and how their food is produced.

Each tour starts with an aerial photograph of the farm property and follows a series of crops through an entire growing season.

Visitors can click on different parts of the photograph to enter various buildings and learn about different parts of the farm through photographs, videos and panoramic images, similar to how real estate professionals market properties online.

The tours are hosted at www.virtualfarmtours.ca, where they have joined a series of existing tours of livestock farms developed by Farm & Food Care, including dairy, pigs, poultry, sheep, cattle, veal, deer, elk and ratites.

A CD of all the tours, along with a newly developed teacher’s guide – containing curriculum connections for all grades and suggested classroom activities – is being distributed to every elementary and secondary school in the province.

The resource will also be featured at the upcoming Science Teachers Association of Ontario annual conference in Ontario.

And in the interest of full disclosure: the crop and horticulture tours were a project I started about 18 months ago during the year I spent working with AGCare, covering a maternity leave on their staff. It’s great to see these finally become a reality!

Special thanks to grain farmers Valerie and Sharon, vegetable grower Jeff, fruit farmer and processor Jennifer and greenhouse vegetable grower Dean for opening their farms to us for this project.

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