Ottawa must be one of the only capitals in the world where you can find an active farm in the heart of the city … a few kilometres away from Parliament. But the Ottawa Experimental Farm is not just a farm. It is a vast agricultural research complex, which includes a museum, an arboretum and several heritage buildings.
I visited it for the first time this weekend. Which is rather surprising when you consider that I visited dozens of times the other museums of the capital … But as I grew up in the countryside and I often worked on farms with my parents, I imagine that the latter didn’t really see the point of bringing my siblings and I to a museum about agriculture … But I recently decided it was about time for me to visit what many consider a real gem of the city.
The Central Experimental Farm was established in the 19th century to serve as a research station for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. When it was built, it was located on the edge of the city, but over the years, Ottawa expanded and grew around the 400 hectares of the Central Experimental Farm land. So just out of the Little Italy neighborhood, there is a vast green space along the Rideau Canal, both public park and research complex.
The Experimental Farm has been of great importance from a scientific point of view and for research and development in the agricultural field. That’s what earned it a designation as a national historic site. Nearly a hundred of its buildings are considered to have heritage value, many having been built more than a hundred years ago.
The Central Experimental Farm is still used today as an administrative and research complex. But we must not neglect its educational aspect. The Agriculture and Food Museum is located there, a nice place to learn more about how a farm works, to see a dairy farm in operation and to pet farm animals. An activity of choice if you have children (or, like me, a boyfriend from the north who has never set foot on a farm …).
In short, lovers of museums, of green spaces or of history, there is undoubtedly something for you at the Ottawa Experimental Farm!