Vanessa Chiasson is TurnipseedTravel – an ocean loving Maritimer now settled as a freelance writer in Ottawa. TurnipseedTravel.com is passionate about great value -getting the absolute most for your hard earned dollars and days off. Our value travel philosophy tells you where to save, when to splurge, and how to make every moment count. Follow Vanessa on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Indigenous wild flowers, grasses, and plants gently sway along the roads and fields of Norfolk County, their colourful and feathery tops cheerfully bobbing in the breeze. A drive through the country roads is a pretty, pleasant excursion, but what you’re experiencing is much more than an agreeable nature scene – you’re traveling with Alice!
Norfolk and ALUS – A Perfect Match
ALUS, that is, not “Alice”, although the locals pronounce it and talks about it as if it were a person and not an acronym. ALUS stands for the Alternative Land Use Services and this innovative program has been thriving in Norfolk County since 2007, with over 100 farm families now participating. The ALUS program compensates farmers for providing a portion of their land for ecological goods and services, such as increasing biodiversity and providing habitat for species at risk. Norfolk is the perfect region for the ALUS program as the county’s long time stalwart crop, tobacco, has sharply declined and farmers are eager to diversify and find new sources of revenue.
Encouraging Crops and Critters
As innovative crops such as lavender, ginseng, peanuts, hops, heritage meats, and dozens of fruits and vegetables gradually replace tobacco, embracing the ALUS program makes a lot of sense. Norfolk County has been a farming centre for centuries and ALUS supports the biodiversity needed to keep the farming tradition alive. ALUS lands provide the ideal habitat for the bees that are critical for crop pollination, and also support a diverse ecosystem for other small animals, birds, and insects. It’s a bonus that ALUS land is the prettiest in town!
Why You Should Go
Norfolk County is dedicated to promoting agriculture and it is a must-see destination for anyone with a passion for eco-travel, nature, local produce, and gardens. The program is fast becoming the star of the region’s argi-tourism industry. If you’re interested to see ALUS for yourself, you don’t have to look far – it’s thriving across the county! Here are my favourite places to experience ALUS first hand – and have a little fun as well!
Where You Should Go
Bonnieheath Lavender – Quiet possibly the most relaxing place in Norfolk County, Bonnieheath produces a wide variety of lavender products and a winery is in the works for the near future. Their ALUS land includes native prairie grasses, a wildlife corridor, and a wetland. They offer walking tours and wagon tours and their resident farm dog, Lucy, is one of the cutest dogs I’ve ever seen!
YU Ranch – The longhorn cattle of YU Ranch may well be the luckiest in the world, as they happily graze next to huge swaths of beautiful ALUS land. This all natural, free-range beef is a favourite of local restaurants, but it can be yours for less than $7 a pound for ground beef and $12-$19 a pound for roasts and steak. I can’t wait to return next summer –maybe for a little Norfolk County camping – and stop in at YU ranch to have my cooler stocked!
Burning Kiln Winery – In many respects, Burning Kiln is a new kid on the Ontario wine block, but this small winery has been making a huge splash. Winning countless awards, they were selected as an official wine of the Ontario Legislature. Burning Kiln has wholeheartedly embraced the property’s tobacco growing heritage and you can see the influence of the tobacco industry in the names of the wine, the art on the labels, and the design of the building. Walking through their ALUS lands, I could hear the bees humming and the birds chirping – ALUS is certainly thriving here!
To plan your own visit to Norfolk County, Ontario click here.