Introducing the Local Agritourist: Lara Bender
Lara Bender is the creator of Agritourism Ottawa, a blog that profiles wineries, orchards, gardens, farm tours, and other agricultural destinations within an hour’s drive of Ottawa. When she’s not hanging out on farms and driving Ottawa’s rural back roads, she’s a product marketing writer in the high-tech industry.
Did you know that there are 10 wineries within an hour’s drive of Ottawa? Or that you can visit a cranberry farm right in the city of Ottawa? How about taking a wagon ride through a bison ranch, or visiting an organic farm with heritage pigs and free-range chickens?
These and more than 200 other agricultural experiences are available to visitors and residents of the Ottawa area. It’s a sector of tourism called “agritourism”, and it includes destinations such as farms, wineries, orchards, gardens, sugar shacks, cheese factories, corn mazes, farmers’ markets, and farm stay B&B’s. It also includes the many agricultural events that take place throughout the year, such as harvest festivals, agricultural fairs, and open house events at farms and agribusinesses.
We are very fortunate in Ottawa to have one of the most diverse agritourism regions in the world. From orchards to maple syrup, Christmas trees to commercial greenhouses, and corn mazes to wineries, the Ottawa region is blessed with a rich farming heritage – just minutes away from the urban core.
Yet visitors and residents are often unaware of the many agritourism opportunities in the region. To help get the word out, I decided to compile a list of all the agritourism destinations in the Ottawa region, visit them as a tourist, and then share my experiences through my Agritourism Ottawa website and blog. (I also have plans to self-publish an agritourism guidebook, although that is turning out to be a slow process and a LOT of work!)
I began working on my agritourism project last summer. Since then, I have spent countless hours visiting farms in a 100-km radius of Ottawa, including the Outaouais. I have to say that this project has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve become a passionate promoter of agritourism, which I see as an excellent way to:
- Learn how and where your food is grown;
- Increase awareness of agricultural issues;
- Support local farmers, businesses, and the rural economy; and,
- Escape from urban life and connect with nature.
Most of all, agritourism is simply fun! Nothing beats the feeling of walking among a herd of alpacas, holding a baby chick, or sipping wine on a patio beside a vineyard. These are the experiences that make me think “Life is Good”, as my day-to-day worries are swept aside by the joy of the present moment.
To give you a taste of what’s available in our region, watch for my Local Tourist Ottawa profiles of agritourism destinations right within the city of Ottawa. You can also read more profiles on my website, beyond the ones I will occasionally write for this fine blog.