Farm Hop is a festival to remember, celebrating fall and the harvest. Now in its third year, it began when three farms near Wakefield joined forces to open their doors to the people of the region. This year, activities included: picking pie pumpkins, wagon rides, sheep shearing, cider pressing, eating lunch, and of course music!

Sundays in early autumn can be sleepy, with the cooler temperatures and chances of rain. Yet the leaves are beginning their annual display, and the promise of a day on a farm was compelling. It was our first visit to these farms in the Gatineau Hills, but the names were familiar from the Ottawa Farmer’s Market at Lansdowne Park.

The drive was stunning, with red and orange trees visible from Autoroute 5. (PSA: Try to make it to Gatineau Park next weekend!)

Three farms were participating:

– Juniper Farms: They grow a variety of vegetables, including tomatoes, leeks, radishes, greens, and squashes.

– Ferme et Forêt: They harvest wild plums, grow mushrooms, produce golden maple syrup, and keep chickens and sheep.

– Roots and Shoots: Certified organic, they grow a number of vegetables. They also grow flowers and partner with Le Cropin to provide mushrooms.

Food

Courtesy of Juniper Farms

The Farm2Table movement is bringing fresh and local produce to plates across the city, but nothing beats eating a dish made from ingredients grow on the property. Each of the farms had food offerings, and it was quite busy around lunch with many items selling out. I tried the mushroom chowder at Ferme et Forêt and it was fantastic!

The food offerings at the various farms were true to the region’s cuisine (yes, there was poutine) and showcased local flavours. It’s amazing the difference that fresh and high quality ingredients make! Available food included poutine with bone broth gravy, soups served out of cauldrons (pulled pork and veggie), chicken pot pie, barbecued squash, pumpkin donuts, and herbed popcorn. Also available was hot apple cider pressed at Ferme et Foret, and Blue Barn coffee. I’d never tried coffee that has a “light and fruity” taste before, and that cup exceeded expectations. Finally, Roots and Shoots had a musical barn where Beyond the Pale was available by donation.

Music

Each farm had musicians playing throughout the day. It created a festive atmosphere where you could pull up a hay bale and enjoy the tunes. Ferme et Foret had Peter Andree on accordion and Brian Sanderson on a variety of instruments. Their music echoed pleasantly around the field and brought the different areas of the farm together. With the music tent close to the food vendors, it was reminiscent of a kitchen party. When walking by, I heard the musicians pause between songs to tell a friend that the Prime Minister and his family had stopped by earlier that afternoon to hear them play.

The atmosphere was jovial at Juniper Farms, with plenty of families in attendance. There was a three-piece all woman folk-band playing when we arrived, the Paugan Dames, delivering harmonies that created an excellent backdrop for friendly socializing.

Last but certainly not least, we caught Moonfruits bringing their romantic and harmonious folk to a cozy barn at Roots and Shoots. Generally a duo, they were joined by Toby Meis on double bass, who complimented their sound nicely. Moonfruits never fail to impress and create a sense of warmth and community in their audience.

Farm activities

There were plenty of farm activities for attendees of all ages. Highlights for the kids included wagon rides, face-painting and playing in piles of hay. Adult attendees could enjoy watching a sheep sheering (see video below), ride a wagon at two different farms, shop at farm stores for fresh produce, and enjoy the pleasant weather. There was a sense of adventure that came from exploring the three farms, and I left feeling more connected to my food.

Courtesy of Marc Adornato