Ottawa family brings NCC-owned pioneer farm back to life

Ottawa family brings NCC-owned pioneer farm back to life

An Ottawa family has brought a pioneer farm built in the 1850s back to life in the hopes of offering visitors a glimpse into the farming experience both then and now.

Larry Orr, his son Ryan, and their families have turned the old log structures at the property owned by the National Capital Commission on Cedarview Road into an operating farm — complete with livestock and a sugar bush for maple syrup production.

"Both my son and myself and our families ... are very passionate about the history of the place, and the importance that it played to the community," Larry Orr told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. 

"And we want to see the history preserved, because it would be a shame to lose it. Because there's not another property like this anywhere in eastern Ontario, and we want people to be able to experience it."

In 2015, the NCC put out a call for farmers to rent property it owned throughout the Greenbelt. The Cedarview Road property, built and operated by the Bradley family in the 1850s, caught Orr's eye. 

'It's not a museum'

"When it came up for lease a couple of years ago, we decided it was a great project, and we decided that it might be a good family task. So we submitted a proposal to NCC and agreed on a 20-year lease," he said.

"I think the uniqueness here is it really is a total replication of the farm, as opposed to it's not a museum. It's an actual operating farm. So people can see what real life was like."

March break was first full week open for the Log Farm, as it's known, and thousands of visitors showed up. The farm plans to welcome more people on weekends through the end of sugar bush season, which was a crucial operation for the site's original settlers.

"It was a really important product for them, because they used it to create sugar, which they traded for other products," said Orr. "And without that, they would have had a very long year, and they would have had to do other things like sell eggs and wood and try to survive."

Orr said they also plan to expand operations at the Log Farm by launching a farmer's market in the spring and creating more garden and orchard space in the coming years, in the hopes of "rejuvenating it back to its splendour of the past."