Doors Open Quinte West Community Spotlight with Brambleberry Farm

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Doors Open Quinte West Community Spotlight with Brambleberry Farm

Fans of Doors Open events are in luck this fall, as cities across Ontario are opening their doors to curate unique experiences for the local community and visitors. If you have been following our series, the Teachers on Call in-person and online tutoring team highly recommend these opportunities to visit and engage with community members through destinations and experiences not normally accessible to the public. This fall our president, Joanne Sallay, is selecting educational sites which are particularly of interest to our families and teachers.  In this blog, she interviews the family behind Brambleberry Farm to learn more about their approach to sustainable agriculture, beekeeping and teaching students about where their food comes from during Doors Open Quinte West and according to their harvest schedule. They will be in good company on Saturday, September 16, 2023, with 12 in-person locations to take advantage of in total. Read on for more details on picking local strawberries and their event!

What is Doors Open Ontario and how does it work?

Throughout April to October 2023, participating cities across Ontario are opening many heritage sites and historic buildings to the public on designated weekends, all in partnership with Ontario Heritage Trust, local businesses, museums, heritage sites and volunteers. Often, many of these locations do not open their doors to the public – or let you go on exclusive behind the scenes tours.

Since it’s unlikely to visit them all in one day or two, our in-person and online tutoring service is spotlighting participants this September and October from each participating community.

Teachers on Call’s Quinte West Community Spotlight

There is no lack of locations to visit and learn about during the Doors Open events, and the best part is: they’re completely complimentary to attend on a drop-in basis. In this blog, we’re featuring Doors Open Quinte West with 12 in-person sites to discover, including family owned and operated Brambleberry Farm. As Teachers on Call’s online and in-person tutoring service is also family owned and operated by the second generation, we are very excited to spotlight them. Situated in Murray Hills, their picturesque farm is in Hastings County north of Prince Edward County and east of the Northumberland Hills. Their address is 9 Mitchell Rd, Wooler, ON K0K 3M0.

Colleen Vickers, Special Events Coordinator at City of Quinte West, proudly shares, “I can say that I live just down the road and have had the pleasure over the last 4 decades of watching the farm grow into the awesome site it is today. The City of Quinte West is thrilled to have them as a part of our Doors Open event again this year as they are always a favorite stop, offering a fun an educational experience!”

Read on for our interview with the family team behind Brambleberry Farm.  After our interview, we share a complete list of all 12 participate sties. We highly recommend you check out as many destinations as possible.

An Interview with Brambleberry Farm

What is the story behind your family farm?

As my mother’s family farm was local here, my mom and dad decided to purchase in 1980 what is now known as Brambleberry Farm.  They started with a small planting of raspberries and some vegetables which were sold at the Trenton Farmer’s Market.  I was born and raised on the farm and have watched it evolve over the years.  In 2013 the neighbouring farm was purchased, and my husband and I joined the operation. With the additional acreage, we have expanded to produce up to 30 acres of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables which we offer to the public either u-pick or purchase in our on-farm market. 

For anyone looking to visit Brambleberry Farm for the first time, what do they need to know beforehand?  

The most important thing to know is to dress for the weather. The grass may be wet with dew and layered clothing is a must.  Always remember that they will be outdoors, and bugs are always in season so bring insect repellent!  A hat and sunscreen are also recommended.  This is an eco-friendly farm and guests are asked to please take home their garbage.  Finally, take lots of pictures and share your experience with your friends! 

This is the 12th annual Doors Open Quinte West event. What can visitors expect on Saturday at your site? 

When they arrive at the farm, they will be greeted by either myself or another team/family member and given the option of starting their visit with fruit picking or a wagon tour with me.  On the tour our guests will get an educational experience during which I will share about growing up on the farm, some insight into growing practices and challenges how we work toward sustainability.  We also offer local and our products in our shop which is open to the public.  

For families interested in picking their own fruit and vegetables, how does it work?  

When families arrive at our farm, they will be shown the options for container sizes: (1 litre, 2 litres, 4 litres) which they will choose to pick into.  They purchase the baskets as though they were filled with the fruit they are wanting to pick.  Our team members will answer any questions and then direct them to the fields that are ready to harvest.  They then get back in their cars and head off to the appropriate parking area and all that is left is to have fun! 

Your website references your belief and practice of sustainable agriculture. Would you kindly share more about this with us?     

As I am second generation on this farm and have two sons who may be interested in carrying on the business, sustainability is very important to us.  We actually have some blueberry plants that have been growing here for 40 years! The following are some of the practices we have adopted: 

  • many of our perennial plants are mulched with wood chips to improve nutrient content of the soil  
  • we use cover crops in our strawberry/vegetable rotation to improve soil health, to build topsoil, for natural fumigation, to add micronutrients and to control soil erosion 
  • water and nutrients are recycled and conserved through systematic tile drainage/ponds and drip  line irrigation technology  
  • sod is seeded between rows of perennial crops to conserve and replace soil organic matter  
  • our main irrigation pond is stocked with fish that help maintain water quality and eliminate chemical treatment
  • we have built bird boxes and now have resident falcons to naturally control pest bird populations
  • we are life-long learners keeping abreast of new varieties and growing systems that can reduce our use of pesticides eg. our high tunnel greenhouses 

In addition to traditional visits, what other types of opportunities and experiences are possible? 

In conjunction with the Bay of Quinte, I am working to develop intimate private experiences that will be hands-on learning including field work experiences with different crafting options such as bannock on a fire, jam making or popping corn on the cob.  Our experiences will include a take-away bag filled with our and other local products. 

Please tell us about the educational tours you offer to schools. From your experience, what types of new lessons do students learn from these field trips? 

We will begin with a wagon ride tour to teach students about where their food comes from and how it is grown.  There will be stops at our resident beehives to watch the bees work, our irrigation pond to feed the fish and a climb to the top of mulch mountain.  Students will have an opportunity to pick a small basket of in season fruit.  There will be a grade-appropriate take away activity from colouring to learning names of plant parts or pollination. 

You are known to welcome high school student volunteers. What types of community service opportunities are available to them and how do they apply?    

We have several opportunities including picking produce for delivery to a local foodbank, helping with events or directing guests to parking/picking areas.  Students can email us by clicking on the “Contact Us” tab under the “Volunteer” section on our website.   

Full List of Doors Open Quinte West In-person Sites for September 16, 2023

For more information about Quinte West’s 25th anniversary at Doors Open and to download a map outlining all participating locations, click here

Not to feel disappointed if you are not near Quinte West, as there are other events throughout Ontario to explore.  If you live closer to London, Peterborough, Kitchener, Cambridge, or Waterloo, their Doors Open events are taking place the same weekend. Check out our community spotlights with Doors Open London and Doors Open Waterloo Region.

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