Farming 101: Five ways for Torontonians to experience country life

Farming 101: Five ways for Torontonians to experience country life

Nature calls: Farming experiences are available to those looking to get back to the land (Photo by Peter Firminger)  

Shopping at farmers’ markets has a way of making agriculture seem like a peaceful and tasty career path. In the daydream version of rural life, there are no painful commutes or layoff threats, just friendly barnyard beasts and bountiful produce. This is not the whole story, of course, so for those Torontonians looking for a way to get back to the land, we’ve dug up some unique opportunities that will let them try their hands at growing, without getting them too dirty. Here are five, arranged from green dabbler to committed farmhand.

Go on a field trip
Commitment level: 2/10
For the past decade, farm-to-table pioneer Jim Denvan has been bringing diners closer to food sources, creating pop-up al fresco restaurants everywhere from ranches in California to community gardens in Manhattan. This summer, his Outstanding in the Field series visits Dingo Farms in Bradford, Ontario. Participants tour the organic farm before tucking in to a five-course meal prepared by Mark Cutrara, chef at Cowbell. It’s a glamorous peek at farm life, no manual labour required.
August 11. $200.

Start a victory garden
Commitment level: 4/10

Before you dig up the rose garden in the name of self-sufficiency, it’d be wise to seek out some advice. Jane Hayes is an urban agriculture evangelist who coaches conscientious green thumbs to grow organically and adhere to permaculture principles (meaning gardens should be ecologically sound, as well as pesticide-free). Intense workshops might cover such heady topics as soil macronutrients and dynamic accumulators (translation: plants that give back). On-site consultation and veggie-growing tutorials are available for the ultra-keen.
Up to $75. 416-536-9144,

Come for a visit
Commitment level: 5/10

Peller Estates is offering a ripe opportunity for locavore tipplers to put a little elbow grease into their ethics. The winery is hosting a weekend that should live up to its name: Boot Camp for Bon Vivants. Guests prune grapevines, sample vintages aging in barrel and get their sip on in blind tasting challenges.
$550; $894 per couple. 905-468-4678,

Stay the night
Commitment level: 7/10

Farm holidays, an age-old British pastime, are catching on here. Green Arbour B and B offers one of the province’s most unique yet appealing places to try out the concept. Guests can tend the herd of llamas, then retire to the dollhouse-quaint, gingerbread-festooned Victorian farmhouse. After a farm-fresh breakfast of homemade sourdough waffles or free-range eggs, Stratford (and a dose of Shakespeare) is a short drive away.

Become a farmhand
Commitment level: 8/10

For the ultimate rural immersion program, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) offers free lodging in exchange for long days of chores, like pitching hay and weeding veggie beds. If you aren’t pining for a latte by the end of your stay, perhaps you really should buy some acreage.
Free. 250-354-4417,