Nanaimo region’s farmers are opening their gates to tourism, giving the agri-curious a chance to experience what it takes for food to travel from farm to plate.
The Nanaimo area has been home to a patchwork of farms and rolling fields for decades, but until recently agriculture hasn’t landed on the map as a tourist attraction. That’s all changed with the growing interest in buying local, making farms, fields and artisan trails a new trend. Farmers are now opening their gates to not only sell homegrown products but the experiences that go with them.
For those looking to tour local farms, here’s some top spots to put on the map:
Morning Star Bison Ranch: Kick off your farm tour on the last Sunday of the month with a visit to Bob Wilson “Buffalo Bob” and his herd of bison. The farmer opens his 96-hectare ranch between June and October to take people for a guided wagon-ride, where people can get up close and personal with bison and their calves, feed the animals and listen to Buffalo Bob’s adventures with bison. Visitors will also be able to learn about the herd and how they are ethically raised. Tours cost $20 for adults and $5 for children over the age of three and are offered between 10 a.m and 6 p.m. After the tour, visit the gift shop or grab a bite to eat at the Yippy Ki’Yeah Cafe concession truck. The ranch is 10 kilometres south of Nanaimo at 1185 Spruston Rd.
Hazelwood Herb Farm: If you are interested in learning about herbs or picking up chutney and cooking blends, stop in at the Hazelwood farm. Open daily beginning in April, it offers a quarter-acre display garden and gazebo for visitors to explore. Grab a brochure for a self-guided walk or book a group tour and learn about everything from the history of how herbs were used to the way they’re transformed into botanical creams and infusions. A group tour is $35 and for another $2.50 you can end it with tea, cookies or lemon bread in the farm’s orchard. People can also visit the nursery and gift shop. The best months to enjoy the farm at 13576 Adshead Rd. are May through July between 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Fredrich’s Honey Farm: Stop in for something sweet at Fredrich’s Honey Farm, which has produced honey on Vancouver Island since 1966. Visitors can peruse honey and pollen products at the gift shop between Wednesday and Sunday or pre-arrange a free tour to see the handling and production of beehives. The farm at 2798 Cedar Rd. is open between 10 a.m until 5 p.m., beginning in April. For more information, call 250-245-4214.
Nanoose Edibles Farm: This certified organic farm in Nanoose Bay supplies fresh produce to a number of restaurants across Vancouver Island. Stop by to wander the four-hectare grounds, pick fruit or visit the market for local products and farm-fresh foods. Owner Barbara Ebell is also available to show visitors the farm and explain the importance of agriculture and locally-grown food. For a free tour pre-book at 250-468-2332. The farm is open daily, Monday to Sunday from 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
Tiger Lily Farm: If you have children, this small interactive farm will be a tour favourite. Rain or shine, families can stop at the barnyard to cuddle with baby chicks, pet bunnies and ride ponies. Watch goats being milked daily at 11 a.m., noon and 2 p.m, help bottle feed one of the kids every hour between 11 a.m and 3 p.m or collect farm fresh eggs. The barnyard, open daily between 10 a.m and 4 p.m., is $8.75 a person and $32.50 for a family and includes a pony ride. Tiger Lily Farm also offers trail rides between dawn and dusk.