Participation in this year’s Taste Real – Fall Rural Romp shows how farm visits are gaining momentum with an authenticity-starved public.
Saturday’s 13th annual self-guided tour, which covers southern Guelph-Wellington county, offers a record 22 destinations.
That’s four more than last year…and many of the new participants have some kind of direct-to-consumer retail operation. They’re among 15 locations this year offering breakfast, lunch or product samples.
Taste Real coordinator and Rural Romp organizer Christina Mann says authenticity is a key draw for the estimated 2,000 people expected to travel throughout the southern part of the county to visit local food providers (a separate event featuring northern Wellington County food businesses takes place in the spring).
“On-farm visits allow producers to actually show what they do on their farm,” she says. “At a farmers’ market, you can tell people what you do and get their interest. When they come to your farm, you can show them, and put on your many hats – farmer, marketer, educator, tour guide and sales person, among them. Farmers are very aware of this unique opportunity.”
For example, new this year to the romp is a Texas longhorn beef ranch. Longhorn cattle are a sight to behold; processed beef in the display case doesn’t do them justice. Seeing them or any other livestock or crops on the farm gives rural rompers an insider’s view of the operation.
“Once farmers get people on the farm they can educate them and perhaps turn them into customers,” she says. “People are craving that connection with those who produce their food. There’s so much information out there, and so many opinions about what’s good and what’s not … a farm visit helps you judge for yourself. That’s where the rural romp comes in.”
Another addition this year is the Wellington Terrace Long-Term Care Home in Fergus, where residents have developed a community garden. Besides serving their harvest on their own tables, they’re also offering it for sale to the public.
Mann says these and other stops on the tour – which for beverage aficionados includes a winery, distillery, brewery and cidery – shows how momentum for fresh, wholesome local food continues to grow.
“Local food is a trendy term, but people are defining it for themselves and we are helping facilitate their understanding of it through the rural romp, learning about all the great places that produce local food right in their own backyard.”
Participating businesses will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rompers are encouraged to share their adventures on social media using the hashtags #RuralRomp and #tastereal.
For Fall Rural Romp locations, to download a map, or for more information visit www.tastereal.ca. Romp maps are also available at all participating locations. There is no admission charge to participate in the self-guided tour. Access to each location is free.