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Ottawa’s former Central Experimental Farm is now a national treasure, drawing thousands of visitors each year.


The Farm Photos and story by Katharine Fletcher


T


he Central Experimental Farm, affectionately called “the Farm” by residents, is a national treasure in the heart of Ottawa. Children and adults harbour fond


recollections of playing in its stunning ornamental gardens or biking alongside ripening fields of corn, soybeans and other crops. In fact, the Farm draws hundreds of thousands of visitors


annually. Families spend sun-dappled afternoons strolling its Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens. Avid gardeners come in search of Explorer hardy roses or to research vari- eties of hosta. In 1887, when Canada was 20 years young and settlers


throughout the new dominion needed reliable data on what crops could withstand variable temperatures or pests, 188 hectares were designated for development as a scien- tific research station and operating farm. Because informa- tion was urgently required on varieties of trees, flowering


26 • Fall 2016


shrubs and flowers to grace public and private gardens, the overall design included beautifully landscaped areas which became the Dominion Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens. Today Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada manages the


Farm, which won national historic site designation in 1998. The first director, Dr. William Saunders, lived on-site


in an arts and crafts style mansion, where he entertained international dignitaries to showcase Canada’s agricultural research. He planted the arboretum with 200 specimens of trees and shrubs, and by 1899 the collection had grown to over 3,000. Many, such as a magnificent English oak, still thrive. Several important economic advances in plant hybridiza-


tion were developed here. Early maturing, frost-resistant Marquis wheat proved vital for Canada’s prairie farmers. On the ornamental front, Isabella Preston hybridized the


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