I’m up close and personal with Leroy the llama. To clarify – as close as he will allow me. Leroy doesn’t like to be touched, so all I can do is hold out my hand to let him sniff it and snort a bit of his snot all over it.
His soft gaze is entrancing. He’s handsome, with his big eyes, soft-looking mouth with the glimpse of a toothy grin occasionally showing. A piece of grass is stuck in-between his front teeth. All he needs is a straw hat for the complete local yokel look.
I’m spending an afternoon and evening on a family friend’s farm, north of Shelburne, Ontario. It’s very quiet here – no sounds of traffic in the background. All you hear is the regular rhythm created by crickets and heat bugs. Sitting on the wooden porch, with a glass on pink lemonade over ice, I’m feeling very relaxed and in tune to the surroundings. I’m in a very happy place.
As we drove home after that day spent on the farm, we started thinking about why it was such a great experience. We often head out on hiking trails in the woods to find balance in our busy lives, but a few hours on a farm is magical in a different way. There are several reasons why you should spend a day on a farm:
Farm Animals Are Fun
From the friendly barn cat to the horse in a stall, farm animals are different from pets we have around us at home.
Horses are gentle giants and very happy to be around you if you happen to have a carrot or other yummy snack. They gaze upon you and you have to wonder what they are thinking. Their size can be intimidating for those who rarely get so close to them, but you get used to them soon enough.
I enjoy watching animals interact with other animals. The horses on our friends’ farm had different relationships with each other, exhibiting affection, competition (for food or attention) and occasionally indifference.
When we were inside the barn, we noticed that the cats were doing what naturally comes to felines – hunting. One of the barn cats sauntered in with a still wriggling mouse in his mouth. Seeing a barn cat doing its thing is a reality check… a reminder that cats are predators and even a pet cat has these natural instincts if permitted to go outside.
A Change of Scenery
There’s little concrete to be found on a farm. Grasses, fields of grains, fruits and vegetables, trees and animals are what your eyes take in when visiting a farm.
Just as spending time in the woods can be peaceful and relaxing, so can taking a moment to sit down and take in the sites of a farm. One of our favourite spots to get strawberries in the summer if Springridge Farm in north Burlington. Located on a hillside, the vibrant green rows of strawberries in the fields reminds us that there is life beyond the city.
In the fall, we stop at apple orchards in the area to get fresh fruit.
Everything Smells Different
The smell of stinky sewers and exhaust fumes in Toronto or the scent of horse manure? While both are not attractive scents, I’ll take the smell of horses and cows over Toronto’s stench (especially in the summer).
Why? Because under the scent of stinky horse and cow poop is the scent of freshly mowed fields, drying hay and perhaps a faint scent of wild flowers. Passing by corn fields in early summer you smell the freshness. You can almost smell the colour green.
Our noses need a break from the dust, pollution and fumes that make up city living. With the Greater Toronto Area situated in what’s essentially a big bowl, all that pollution gets caught in it and we breath it in. Visiting a farm is a break for our olfactory sense.
A Reminder Where Our Food Comes From
Our food is made on a farm, not in a grocery store – no matter if it’s apples or the turkey that will be enjoyed at Thanksgiving.
Spending a day on a farm is a reminder that the greenbelts around our cities are so important, as are the farmers who choose to focus their lives on producing the food that the rest of us enjoy. Taking the time to pick-your-own produce gives you a sense of the hard work that goes into getting food from the farm to the table.
Food Tastes Better Straight From The Farm
This past summer we visited Welsh Brother’s farm in Norfolk County to pick up freshly-picked sweet corn. Getting to their small warehouse near Scotland, Ontario, we were able to pick up a huge bag containing about 50 ears of corn that had been picked that morning or perhaps just the day before, for about $30. All that corn for a fraction of what it would cost in the grocery store, and a whole lot fresher as well.
We shucked it a few hours later, boiled it and slathered it with margarine. Biting into it, it was so delicious… sweet-tasting and melting in your mouth.
Taking a drive in the countryside on a weekend means you can stop by various farm stands and pick up fresh produce that hasn’t been sitting in a cold warehouse for days on end before it gets to your table.
Even better is pick-your-own. If you’ve ever been strawberry picking on a farm, you know that those berries taste so much sweeter than anything else you’ve eaten.
The best thing is that you pay the farmer directly, and in many cases the price is much better than what you’d get in a grocery store.
Farms Close to Toronto
There are numerous farms close to Toronto that are open to visitors that give you a taste of farm life, as well as access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Doing a short day trip outside of the city to visit a few of these farms is well worth the drive. A few of our favourite farms include:
Seasonal festivals, family fun activities such as wagon rides, strawberry picking, pumpkin patch, farm animals and more. You can also purchase various craft items as well as freshly baked pies and other pastries in the main barn building. This farm is one of the best in the area for a fun weekend out with the family.
Located in the Cabbagetown area of Toronto, this 7.5 acre farm includes farm animals and fruit and vegetable gardens. It includes a historic farm, pig and poultry barn and various special events throughout the year. Admission is free.
In north Burlington, this farm is one of the best places to get fresh local produce. This is one of our favourite places to visit for pumpkins in the fall, but you can also get tomatoes, garlic and peppers. Stop by at other times of the summer for fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits.
A great heritage farm with pick-your-own apples for family fun. The bakery offers a delicious selection of pies made from scratch to jams and preserves.
There are many more farms – too many to list here – but they are easily found online and through the grape vine (pun intended).
Which farm is your favourite to visit? What are your thoughts: why should you spend a day on a farm?