Uncovering the Essence of Rural Ontario with the Greenbelt Discovery Routes
October 27th, 2021
Written by Dinusha Prasad, Communications Coordinator at the Culinary Tourism Alliance
Most urban dweller’s in the province know that Ontario’s Greenbelt is a buffer for keeping urban sprawl at bay, but this expansive green space does so much more. In addition to preserving natural habitats and sheltering countless species of wildlife, it’s home to over two million acres of protected farmland, forest, and wetland that work together to provide us with fresh air, clean water, picturesque hiking and cycling trails, and world-class outdoor recreation experiences. It is also home to some of Ontario’s most fantastic local food and drink.
Our goal for this project is to shine a light on some of the hard-working farmers and small businesses across the Greenbelt while providing hungry outdoor adventurers with a useable resource to plan more delicious adventures and find hidden gems."
In November 2020, the Culinary Tourism Alliance partnered with the Greenbelt Foundation to create a digital resource that helps travellers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region to plan and access some of the Greenbelt’s best food and beverage destinations, including local-food restaurants, rural microbreweries, and wineries. Launched in the summer of 2021, the digital resource includes 30 routes built on top of existing cycling and hiking routes curated by the Greenbelt. With each of the 30 self-guided Greenbelt Discovery Routes, visitors can connect with nature, engage with locals, and explore the many local food and drink spots dotted throughout the region – from farms and roadside market stands selling peak-season produce, to cozy cafes, bakeries and restaurants serving farm-to-table food, to wineries, breweries and cideries producing award-winning wines and locally crafted brews.
Our goal for this project is to shine a light on some of the hard-working farmers and small businesses across the Greenbelt while providing hungry outdoor adventurers with a useable resource to plan more delicious adventures and find hidden gems.
The listed businesses along the Greenbelt Discovery Routes, each within 20 minutes or 20 km of the selected hiking or cycling trail, have been assessed by the Culinary Tourism Alliance for market readiness, their connection to the local area, and their passion for local food and drink. That means travellers using the route can rest easy that they’re supporting the local economy and making good food choices that support the community and environment they’re exploring. Businesses along the routes were also assessed on their role as ambassadors of the local food community, including their commitment to promoting farmers, growers, producers, and artisans in the area and offering visitors a unique “taste of place” that is a genuine expression of the region.
Many of the routes were also curated based on their cycler friendliness thanks for criteria provided by Ontario by Bike, Ontario’s foremost resource for cyclists.
There are 245 businesses featured on the 30 routes, each offering a unique taste of the region. Businesses range from farm stands that sell seasonal produce to breweries where cyclists can pitstop for a flight. There are also restaurants that serve local food, wineries with bike racks, and even farms that offer seasonal tours and tastings.
The Greenbelt Discovery Routes were created to promote food tourism in Ontario by encouraging Ontarians to explore their own backyards. The programme enables local economies to recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and help build back more resilient rural communities. It is one of many food tourism and agritourism programmes developed with the Culinary Tourism Alliance (CTA). Established in 2006, the CTA is a not-for-profit industry organization devoted to supporting the growth and development of food tourism in Ontario, Canada, and across the globe. The CTA works with communities to grow food tourism by leveraging the history, heritage, and culture behind the food and drink that makes each destination unique.
To learn more about the Greenbelt Discovery Routes and explore delicious self-guided local food & drink trails in the protected Greenbelt, visit: ontarioculinary.com/greenbelt/