If your idea of vacation is lounging by the pool with a margarita, stop reading here. But if you’ve always dreamed of farming the land, this trend sweeping Canada is for you.
Rise with the roosters, grab a hoe and hit the veggie patch on 130-ha (320-ac), certified-organic Keewatin Farm under the wide-open prairie skies near Regina, SK. Help out Elaine McNeil and husband Will Oddie with their breeding herd of Canadien Horses; there’s always grooming to do and stable chores. Then saddle up for a trot or take off on a hay ride with Canada’s sturdy national horse at the end of the reins. Spend the afternoon picking Saskatoon berries. Finish the day cooling off with a cold drink on the farmhouse porch while gophers and foxes steal by. Then bed down at the B&B—Bed and Bale—in the couple’s Edwardian red-brick farmhouse. You’ll hear coyotes howling as the Northern Lights flicker across the sky. www.canadienhorse.com/index.html
A workin’ holiday? That’s right, the down-and-dirty kind. With more folks realizing the average food item in North America has travelled some 4,000 km (2,485 mi) from farm to table, they want to see what’s cooking just down the road, fresh from the field. Desk jockeys are increasingly going low-tech on their days off, signing up for agri-tourism vacations, playing farmer for an afternoon or a week. The work might be making maple syrup, winding mohair wool on a bobbin, collecting cranberries or picking pumpkins, then learning how to cook them into something gourmet from a chef. The physical work and connection with the earth soothes the soul. Some farms exchange room and board for volunteering. And there are hundreds of farms to choose from coast to coast. Don the dungarees, grab your garden gloves and hit the dirt.
Find a farm in Canada Join the Canadian chapter of Wwoofers—Willing Workers On Organic Farms—and hook up with 600-plus hosts coast to coast. Live on a farm for a week or more, volunteer your time and sweat, and receive lodgings and meals in return. www.wwoof.ca
British Columbia Pemberton Meadows farmland, north of Whistler, BC Use pedal-power to propel yourself along a 50-km (31-mi) natural buffet in Pemberton Meadows farmland. Every August, 1,300 farm and food enthusiasts cycle along a rural street party on Slow Food Cycle Sunday. Meet local growers and work up an appetite for tasty, field-fresh pit stops at farms along the way. www.slowfoodcyclesunday.com
Salt Spring Island, BC Get to know the local food scene on Salt Spring Island with a seaplane flight and guided gourmet safari of the Gulf Island’s boutique wineries, vineyards and cheesemakers that serve the nation’s best chefs. Dine on fresh, local cuisine at Hastings House Country Estate Hotel; on Saturdays, add a visit to the town’s funky market. www.islandgourmetsafaris.com
New Brunswick Le Gîte de l'Ardora — Inkerman, NB Stay in rustic comfort in a 150-year-old historic farmhouse on New Brunswick’s Acadian Peninsula. This place is near the sea at a farm that raises cows, geese, pheasants, blueberries and… oysters. www.ardora.ca
Look up other New Brunswick farm adventures (visiting Monsieur Tomate or The Pumpkin Lady) at www.freshfromthefarm.com.
Ontario Capricorn View Farm — Bloomfield, ON Tour the facilities and get to know Capricorn View Farm, a family-run goat-meat and milk farm. Learn about their handmade goat-milk soap and help out with barn work before sitting down to a luncheon of goat meat and cheeses. www.capricornview.com
The Grange of Prince Edward Estate winery — Hillier, ON Love wine? Head to The Grange of Prince Edward Estate winery at fall harvest to help pick grapes on 25 ha (60 ac) of vineyards. Then sit back and sip the results. www.grangeofprinceedward.com
For other Ontario farm vacations, browse the Niagara Culinary Trail’s 60 delicious rural destinations. www.niagaraculinarytrail.com
Prince Edward Island Pioneer Farm — O’Leary, PEI Sleep in a cabin on an off-the-grid organic farm in coastal PEI, then pull on your grubbies. The morning’s chores? Helping owners Judy and Jim Bertling (Toronto, ON transplants) gather eggs for your breakfast and feed “Wiggles” the pig. Learn about sustainable practices and preserving heritage breeds. Groom and saddle the llamas to carry your picnic lunch on a trek. www.pioneerfarm.ca
Quebec Rabouillère — one hour south of Montreal, QC Take a shortcut to Provence by touring a Quebec farm where you can overnight in rural luxury and dine on haute cuisine fresh from the garden. Rabouille raises two types of sheep, llamas and 25 kinds of racing, meat and ornamental pigeons. The property’s gardens bloom with fine herbs and edible flowers. www.rabouillere.com
Pick from hundreds of Quebec farms—from a duck farm foray to spending time with a cider maker or sugar shack operator—at www.terroircuisineandproducts.com.