Tim Barrie pointed out at least five different products in his Cedardale Farm store that have a direct connection to his family history on their North Dumfries property.

“Our kettle chips, in the back — ‘Spud’s Finest’ — they’re named after my mom because her nickname was Spud,” he said. 

“The packaging on these crackers has a photo of my dad as a kid. He’s the one with the striped t-shirt … And, of course, there’s all the products made with asparagus grown on our farm: pasta, pasta sauce, pickled asparagus, tortilla chips, tea — it’s all here.”

During an afternoon visit to Barrie’s Asparagus & Country Market on Kings Road, just east of Roseville, Barrie gave me the “short version” of the family and farm history. While touring the store, I also learned that Kings Road was named after his great-grandfather, James King, who began farming at Cedardale in 1892.

After making a purchase, Barrie walked me outside to open up the blacksmith shop, now a roastery for their Blacksmith & Bean fair trade organic coffee. Of course, the shop retains countless pieces of family history to go along with Barrie’s stories about his children, parents, grandparents and growing up at Cedardale Farm.

North Dumfries is home to numerous ‘on farm’ businesses, like Barrie’s Asparagus, that help a local (or not-so-local) traveler absorb the flavour of what make this rural community tick.

Rural communities present a good challenge for the intrepid or casual traveler. It can be harder to get to know a rural place where it’s less likely to have a museum or visitor centre to provide the highlights. Places to explore are not immediately obvious, which just means you have to dig deeper to find destinations that fit your interests.

I admit, I have not spent much time exploring the Township of North Dumfries. I do know it’s located in the south west corner of Waterloo Region and it’s one of four rural townships. I do know it contains the villages of Roseville and Ayr, small clusters of former settlements like Black Horse Corner.

Present-day North Dumfries has many similarities to its past history where industry and agriculture stimulated the community economy. Guaranteed, it’s the working farms and diverse farm stores that draw me to the township, not the sand and gravel pits.

The Local Food Map, created by Foodlink Waterloo Region, makes it easy to learn about this corner of our Region by connecting you directly with food growers and local producers.

Take a country drive through North Dumfries on an empty stomach so you can graze your way through a route that includes Faul Farms on Wrigley Road and Oakridge Acres Country Meat Store on Greenfield Road for their pasture-fed beef and bison.

In the village of Ayr, catch breakfast or lunch at Mangia Organics where owner and chef Loren Hartman cooks up homemade pasta and pasta sauce according to her nonna’s very involved recipes. Since opening on Stanley Street three months ago, Hartman has been sourcing local produce from township farmers.

Wet your whistle with a stop at the Ayr location of Settlement Coffee Co. and Abe Erb Brewing Company for locally roasted coffee or craft beer.

When all the farm stores close for the day, Willibald Farm Distillery & Restaurant on Reidsville Road is just getting started for the evening. Owners and business partners — brothers Jordan and Nolan van der Heyden, and Cam Formica — opened an onsite restaurant in late 2018 that now serves dinner Wednesday through Saturday, with a weekend lunch on Saturdays only.

They’re not only sourcing local food, but have been working out how they can grow much of the food they serve on the van der Heyden farm property where Willibald is located in a renovated barn. A one-acre market garden on the property and an herb kitchen garden provided much of the greens they needed for the restaurant service. They use Ontario grains for distilling their Willibald gin and whiskey aging in wooden casks and plan to grow some grains on the property for a hyperlocal farm distillery.

This month, Willibald launched a selection of three to four beers brewed on site by Joe Freund, the newest member of the Willibald team.

One of the best ways to get to know this corner of Waterloo Region is to simply talk to people who live and work here. I arrived home with a history I didn’t know the day before and a box full of delicious local food products that have a story behind each and every item.

Oh, and a bottle of gin.