Agritourism is alive and well in South Eastern Ontario, particularly in Lyndhurst at Wendy’s Country Market. From quiet country roads and acres of farmland to beautiful landscapes with amber sunsets, the quintessential rural lifestyle is on full display. And Wendy Banks is more than eager to share it with those who visit her on-farm market.
Wendy shares stories of her past, working as a teenager in the fields and at the market when it was owned by her parents, along with educating guests about the producers she supports through her store. She offers tours of the grounds, showing off her crops like a proud mother and introducing you to the farm animals with equal admiration, and she even offers a quaint B&B retreat nearby at her other business, Furnace Falls Farm.
As a sixth generation farmer, Wendy’s passion for agriculture is unmistakable. And the same can be said about her elderly parents, Neil and Gale, as they tend their crops at Corn Acre Farms and continue to one up Wendy and her daughter Leigha.
“They’re the miracle workers of growing food! They still produce a lot for the market; they’re up at 5:30 in the morning and keep going until 7:30 at night sometimes.”
Such work ethic is typical of the farmers throughout South Eastern Ontario, and the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree when it comes to Wendy. Along with running both the country market and Furnace Falls Farm, she used to operate Wendy’s Mobile Market as well, which served as a connection between local producers and the restaurants in the region.
Unfortunately, when her late husband Rick fell ill, she discontinued the service and focused her efforts at the stationery store. Still, the mobile market served its purpose.
“Our goal was to be the connection, a very supportive middle person with a conscience, pushing forward all those relationships. We were needed when we were needed, and when we created those connections, we strengthened the local food supply chain.”
Selling Food Grown Within A 100-Mile Radius
Building a sustainable food network has been Wendy’s goal for as long as she can remember. And she believes achieving that goal starts by getting back to basics and looking within her community and those close by. For that reason, the market sells food grown from over 70 producers within a 100-mile radius.
Food, honestly, is probably the biggest connective element of a community, because everything kind of revolves around agriculture.
Her belief has never been more accurate than during the pandemic, with travel restrictions and limited distribution systems taking their toll on rural neighbourhoods. Small business is the backbone of the local economy in communities like Lyndhurst, and Wendy is adamant about having a connected infrastructure in place to help residents and business owners weather the storm.
With this business model in place, Wendy’s Country Market has not only survived the pandemic, it’s also experienced a degree of success. The outpour of support from locals is one thing, but the region has seen an influx of new homeowners relocating from large urban centres like Toronto and Ottawa – and they all want good food that’s grown locally.
Not to mention, Wendy was also quick to offer curbside pick up and an online ordering system, which provided an efficient way for customers to purchase essential goods. Luckily, the online farmers’ market, as Wendy calls it, was something she had created 15-years ago. Despite being “too ahead of the curve” at the time, the online market earned her the Premier’s Innovation Award. Back then, it may not have been embraced by the Farmers’ Market of Ontario, but now, it’s a must-have to navigate the new normal.
What’s Old Is New Again In Agritourism
Purchasing online is convenient, but with restrictions easing, a visit to Wendy’s Country Market is an experience you won’t soon forget. The rustic store is located inside a 19th-century schoolhouse (circa 1860s), with the original blackboard being used to feature some of the producers, seasonal messages and daily specials.
“My great-great-grandfather gave the chunk of land to the school board at the time to build the school – my great grandfather, my grandmother and my dad all went to school here.”
Furnace Falls Farm completes the agritourism experience, offering you the opportunity to stay in a beautifully restored farmhouse. The barn and loft are also available to rent for private events, while Wendy is hoping to reintroduce her chef’s table dinners and reconnect with the community over delicious home-cooked meals.
As well, the commercial kitchen in the farmhouse is where Wendy and her team produce fresh baked goods, preserves, entrees, and meal kits to be sold at the market. Of course, the ingredients are all sourced locally or are grown on Wendy’s and her parent’s farm.
Wendy’s Country Market is open year-round, too, with a variety of goods available. This includes:
- Free-run eggs, handmade ice cream and organic cheese from Bushgarden Farms
- Fish, poultry and meat including wild game and venison
- Seasonal fruit and vegetables as well as herbs
- Groceries and household and craft items
- Honey, maple syrup and sweets
To stay connected with customers during the off-season when business slows down, Wendy also publishes an email newsletter. The newsletter includes recipes, dates for the chef’s table dinners and information about what’s new on the farm.
Finally, Wendy invites you to visit the market whenever you’re in the area. As part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, the region is diverse and there’s always something to do regardless of the time of year.
Plus, Lyndhurst is home to some really, really good food!