Keeping Ontario’s farm heritage alive

The Elliott-Harrop Barn is one of many buildings to explore at Country Heritage Park.


David Nattress

Buildings and architecture

Published Date:12 Oct 2012

Photo: The Elliott-Harrop Barn is one of many buildings to explore at Country Heritage Park.

In our ever-expanding world, less arable land is available to grow the food we need to survive. As farms disappear across Ontario, buildings and implements have been salvaged by several organizations. The greatest concentration of agricultural artifacts can be found at Country Heritage Park in Milton – a treasure trove of artifacts and historic buildings from Ontario’s farms and villages.

Country Heritage Park is an interactive heritage park depicting agriculture and rural life over the last 150 years. Originally conceived by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the gates were officially opened in 1979. In April 1997, farm groups and individuals concerned about the future of the museum took on the responsibility of operating the facility. In assessing its growth potential and determining how to make the operation self-sufficient with revenue generated from rentals, events and school programs, the name was changed to Country Heritage Park. Today, the park – beautifully spread over 80 acres (32 hectares) in the shadow of the Niagara Escarpment – is owned and operated by Country Heritage Agricultural Society, a member-owned not-for-profit charity established to support the preservation of Ontario’s rich rural heritage and farmland for food production. While it is often used as period film sets, it is also renowned for its excellent school programs.

Whether you attend an event or spend the day on a school trip, there is much to see and learn. In the 1900 one-room schoolhouse, you will experience a child’s life as a student in a farm community. Mrs. Cassin can often be found baking in the stone fireplace at the Cassin 1830s farmstead. The 1920s Ford garage is a favourite stop for photos. The 1890s Lucas farmstead, with its friendly flock of sheep, shows how farming was advancing and improving life during that period. The Women’s Institute building tells the story of food preparation and safety. Stop in at the dairy building and find out how the production of dairy products has advanced over the years. There is a blacksmith and carriage shop, as well as apple cider and pump works buildings. For the kids, there are farm animals and a large collection of antique tractors and steam engines.

The earth’s farmland is limited and important. Ultimately, maintaining – or even expanding – our agricultural landscapes in Ontario should be our collective goal. But, for now, one way to keep our stories alive is through the collection of buildings and artifacts housed and interpreted at Country Heritage Park.