Local Agritourist Lara Bender visits Carp’s Carleton Growers

Lillies in the greenhouse at Carleton Growers

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.

If I needed reminding of how quickly things change in the agriculture business, my recent visit to Carleton Growers sure provided it. I first visited this cut flower business back in September, when I toured the greenhouses and spoke to co-owner and fifth generation flower grower, Darlene Hogg. I had not yet profiled this business on my website, so I felt they would be a great agritourism destination for Local Tourist Ottawa.

Entrance off Carp Road

After reviewing my notes and photos, I was ready to start writing. But I decided that I should make one more trip out to the greenhouses to see what is currently in bloom and to buy some of their fresh, local flowers.

Little did I know that a major change had occurred at Carleton Growers, one that is very exciting for our community.

At the end of January, Fred and Darlene Hogg sold their 97-acre farm and cut flower business to the Carp Ridge EcoWellness Centre (CREWC), a charitable organization dedicated to “teaching, modelling, and facilitating healing and sustainability with emphasis on our local community.” CREWC runs a natural health clinic, holistic wellness centre/healing house, and an outdoor learning centre, all located on the beautiful Carp Ridge.

Preparing the rose patio planters

CREWC bought the Carleton Growers property in order to start an organic farm, which will sell organic produce directly to the public. They plan to continue running the cut flower business, switch over to organic methods, and build new greenhouses to grow organic produce year-round. They will also use the surrounding fields, but first need to plant windbreaks, replenish the soil using natural methods, and establish bee colonies for pollination.

I spoke with Liz Bradley, who is heading up the project. She talked about building up a community, one where students learn about organic growing methods and the public feels completely welcome in touring the facilities. It is all quite exciting, and something that is still a bit under the radar while her team works to get ready for a more official opening this spring.

Flower varieties for sale in the fall

Speaking of touring, the greenhouses are a wonderful place to visit in the winter, where everything inside is green and humid and warm. You will see rows and rows of different flowers, all in various stages of growth. Many of the rows are dedicated to roses, one of Carleton Growers’ specialties. The former owners, the Hoggs, developed their own rose variety a few years ago. Because the business does not have to pay royalties on these roses, they are able to sell “rose patio planters”, a product that is not economically feasible for most rose growers. These planters are a popular gift for Mother’s Day.

If you visit right now, you can purchase asters and lilies, with other flowers becoming available as the season progresses. Because the flowers are local, they are much fresher than the cut flowers imported from South America, and will last longer. You also have the added benefit of knowing you are supporting local farmers, who must follow much stricter environmental and labour laws than those in South America. And the prices are very reasonable – I paid just $10 for the lilies shown in the photo, and the happy feeling I got from walking in the greenhouses was free!

My lilies against a winter backdrop

Location: 3320 Carp Road, Carp (just off the 417 in the west end of Ottawa)

Phone number: 613-839-2989

Website: http://www.carletongrowers.com

Reservations: Not required, but call ahead if you want to check availability or place an advance order.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon. Closed Sundays.