As Canadians, I think we’re used to eating food that comes from across the globe. After all, our growing season is much shorter than other places due to the fact that we live through all four seasons. When I can get my hands on produce and food products that are grown close to home, I jump at the opportunity. It’s better for the environment, supports our local economy, and it just tastes better. Fresh local produce is the best, I’m sure you can agree.
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Living in the city, it’s very easy to become disconnected from our food. We go to the grocery store and purchase whatever we need from the shelf. It might not be something that’s in season at home. It might not even be something that can be grown at home. Of course, there are many times where I’ll buy imported citrus fruits that just can’t be grown here. But, in the middle of the summer, I have access to fresh and local organic food in Ontario. Why buy berries or vegetables from across the globe when the best tasting ones are right in my own backyard?
Needless to say, when I visited the rural farming communities in Perth County, Ontario, I was excited to feel a little more connected with local food places. There’s so much fresh, local, and organic food in Ontario. You just need to know where to look. If you live anywhere near Perth County or you’d like to take a road trip there, I have the best places to visit for foodies. You’ll find an array of fresh local produce and locally produced food products.
McCully’s Hill Farm
McCully’s Hill Farm near St. Mary’s specializes in homemade preserves, maple products, prepared meals, baked goods, and garden fresh produce. Their retail outlet carries lots of delicious preserves and prepared goods made from locally grown ingredients. You’ll find yummy treats like pickles, various flavors of relish, maple mustard, salsa, various flavors of jams and jellies, and so much more. I love that there are so many maple flavored goods, even maple salsa!
Looking for fresh maple syrup in Ontario? McCully’s Hill Farm uses traditional methods to collect their maple syrup, using the “tap and pail” method. They also use a wood-fired evaporator in their production of maple syrup, avoiding the use of fossil fuels. It’s not every day that you can buy maple syrup directly from the farmer. Go ahead and treat yourself! You’re not a true Canadian if you don’t eat maple syrup every day, right?
In addition to the farm and farm shop, McCully’s operates school tours for children, a fall harvest festival, and a maple syrup festival in the winter. It seems as though there’s always something fun and entertaining happening at McCully’s! It’s definitely one of my top picks for foodie places to visit in southern Ontario, especially if you’re planning a trip to Perth County.
Cowan’s Community Fresh
While some of the other stops on my tour of Perth County were farms and farm stores, Cowan’s Community Fresh is a more traditional grocery shop in Listowel, Ontario. This community grocery store focuses on farm to table prepared meals, organic whole foods, cooking tutorials, and more.
Cowan’s Community Fresh hosts their own CSA box delivery service. Each week, you’ll receive a box filled with fresh local produce from neighboring farms. The items within the box vary from week to week, as you’ll only receive fruits and vegetables that are in season. There’s also the option to personalize the box, so you can be a little more adventurous and try new foods, while leaving out the ones you know you don’t like.
Their grocery store is one of the best local food places where you’ll find a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. There are also lots of pantry items, and Cowan’s specializes in carrying lots of vegan and gluten-free foods. You simply must try the kombucha that’s on tap. Plus, they always have vegan prepared meals on hand. I loved how the employee was able to tell me exactly where each vegetable came from, down to the name of the farm. The only items not grown locally were the avocados, and the cashew cheese was made in British Columbia.
Organic Oasis Farm Store
Organic Oasis is truly an oasis for fresh local produce. I stopped by their farm store and took a small tour of the farm. I’m amazed by the vast array and variety of organic food in Ontario that I’d never see at the regular supermarket. Usually lots of the organic fruits and vegetables at the store are imported from the USA or beyond. Almost everything up for purchase at the Organic Oasis Farm Store is grown on the property itself or sourced from nearby farms.
Here’s a sampling of some fruits and veggies that Organic Oasis grows at their farm: greens, strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, peas, beans, blueberries, beets, tomatoes, corn, carrots, potatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkins, broccoli, and cabbage. Everything is certified organic by EcoCert, and they do not use any chemical sprays or fertilizers on their products. Instead of spraying, they focus on fostering the health of the soil by using crop rotation, cover crops, mulch, and compost.
Almost all gardening at Organic Oasis is done by hand by the whole family. This includes planting, weeding, mulching, and pest control. Organic Oasis also has large greenhouses to extend the growing season. You can even purchase fresh local produce in the middle of the winter, thanks to the greenhouses.
Organic food in Ontario doesn’t need to be overly expensive or difficult to find. Head straight to Organic Oasis and you’ll be able to purchase the freshest, most local, nutritious organic food around. In the spring, there’s an annual seedling sale so you can grow your own organic veggies at home. I think I’m going to have to keep my eye on that event for next year!
TNT Berries is a sea buckthorn and blueberry farm where you can go blueberry picking in Ontario. Don’t feel like picking your own berries? You can also buy freshly picked ones, too. When I visited TNT Berries in mid-July, the blueberries weren’t quite ready yet. I sampled one or two fresh off the vine, and they were absolutely delicious. Nothing beats freshly picked berries.
While it varies year to year, the blueberries ripened towards the end of July this time around, lasting into August. The sea buckthorn berries ripen a little later in August. You can check the TNT Berries Facebook page for daily updates on when you can go blueberry picking in Ontario. TNT Berries also offers frozen berries outside of peak season. I had the chance to sample some frozen sea buckthorn berries. They’re a little tart, but actually quite good. I’d love to throw them into a smoothie. They’re orange when they’re ripe. The sea buckthorn berries I saw were still green because they weren’t quite ready to be picked.
Have you heard of sea buckthorn berries? They’re tasty little berries that are a little bit tart. They have high levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, 18 amino acids, omega 3-6-9 and 7, beta carotene, and over 190 phytonutrients! You can add them to smoothies, jams and jellies, or even as an extra flavor in your water bottle. I love that we can buy this super fruit berry so close to home in Perth County, Ontario.
Shakespeare Brewing Company
And yes, sampling the best from this food community includes beer, too! Shakespeare Brewing Company creates small batch beer from the village of Shakespeare, just outside of Stratford, Ontario. The building was converted from an old school bus garage into a brewery, providing the perfect space to craft their specialty beers. You shouldn’t miss this Ontario craft brewery if you’re traveling through Perth County.
The Shakespeare Brewing Company is BrewON certified, meaning that their beer is brewed with 100% Ontario hops (as certified by the Ontario Hop Growers Assocation). This Ontario microbrewery aims to redefine the true meaning of local craft beer. By combining the local agricultural component (Ontario grown barley and hops) and the support of other local small businesses, Shakespeare Brewing Company highlights the best of the region through the taste of their beer and events at the brewery.
For instance, they have a small produce stand out front on the weekend where you can also purchase local fresh food from nearby farmers. They also use fresh blueberries from TNT Berries (which is practically around the corner) for their Bumbling Bear blueberry wheat beer. Can’t get much more local than that!
Enjoy a flight at a few tables indoors or outside on their patio. You can also buy beer from the Shakespeare Brewing Company in cans, bottles or growlers. They also ship their beer within Ontario if you’re craving it, but can’t make it out to the brewery.
I hope that I’ve convinced you to make the road trip to Perth County, Ontario. If you’re looking for where to stay in Perth County, I highly recommend the Forest Motel, just outside of Stratford. Everyone who stays at the Forest Motel receives free access to the property and its activities, including 32 acres of forest and trails, a private lake with canoeing and kayaking, lakeside bonfires, BBQ grills, and snowshoeing in the winter.
They also have modern amenities like complimentary Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs with premium channels, and Keurig coffee makers in each room. Breakfast is also included in your stay. Be sure to book your stay at the Forest Motel for amazing service and a comfortable stay that has many booking this accommodation year after year. Don’t believe me? Read more reviews by fellow travelers.
Looking for More Places to Visit?
There are many more lovely and beautiful places to visit in the region of Huron, Perth, Waterloo, and Wellington counties in southern Ontario. Here are some more great ideas for road trips and places you need to see:
- The Best Things to Do in Elora, Ontario
- Road Trip Guide to Perth County, Ontario
- Donkey Sanctuary of Canada in Guelph, Ontario
Thank you so much to Perth County Tourism for hosting my stay.