Tour real fruit and vegetable farms, virtually!

News releases – originally printed in , November 06, 2010

Guelph, Ontario, November 6, 2010 – The farm gates are “virtually” open on a series of new online farm tours being launched today. Online visitors can meet real Ontario farmers and tour real farms that grow grain, field vegetables, fruit and greenhouse vegetables – without putting their boots on. The project is part of ongoing efforts to help connect consumers to farmers and how their food is produced.

“Less than two per cent of Canadians are involved in agriculture which means that most of us have never had the opportunity to visit a real farm or talk to a real farmer,” says Paul Wettlaufer, a farmer and Chair of AGCare, the Guelph-based organization behind the project that represents crop and horticulture farmers on environmental issues. “The interest in where our food comes from has never been higher. These new virtual farm tours are a great way for kids and consumers of all ages to see how their food is grown in Ontario.”

Each tour starts with an aerial photograph of the farm property and follows a series of crops through an entire growing season. Visitors can click on different parts of the photograph to enter various buildings and learn about different parts of the farm through photographs, videos and panoramic images, similar to how real estate professionals market properties online.

The tours are hosted at www.virtualfarmtours.ca, where they have joined a series of existing tours of livestock farms developed by the Ontario Farm Animal Council, including dairy, pigs, poultry, sheep, cattle, veal, deer, elk and ratites.

A CD of all the tours, along with a newly developed teacher’s guide – containing curriculum connections for all grades and suggested classroom activities – is being distributed to every elementary and secondary school in the province. The resource will also be featured at the upcoming Science Teachers Association of Ontario annual conference in Ontario.

“It’s important for students to have accurate information about where their food comes from and to get connected with modern food and farming,“ says Wettlaufer. “Agriculture touches all of our lives in many different ways and these tours and teacher guides will be a valuable resource to bring that experience into Ontario classrooms.”

The virtual tour project was funded in part through the CanAdvance program, administered in Ontario by the Agricultural Adaptation Council, and with contributions from the Ontario Farm Animal Council, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and Syngenta.

AGCare (Agricultural Groups Concerned about Resources and the Environment) is the voice of Ontario’s 45,000 crop and horticulture farmers on environmental issues. Visit www.agcare.org for more information.