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Taste Real – Food Experience Guide

Submitted ByCounty of Wellington

The Wellington County name is practically synonymous with agriculture – it is deeply rooted in our identity and a large driver of tourism for the area. The Taste Real Food Experience Guide was created to make it easier to find locally grown farm and food experiences in Guelph and Wellington County.

The Food Experience Guide was developed as a companion piece to Taste Real’s Guelph-Wellington Local Food Map. This Local Food Map was first launched in 2005 to find locally grown foods across Wellington County. However, missing from this map was the unique and innovative experiences many of these farms and businesses offer to their visitors. As many Wellington County farms ventured into food tourism, we wanted to curate a guide that focuses specifically on experiences, rather than just the purchase of local food. And so, the Food Experience Guide was born.

The Food Experience Guide covers a variety of unique – and delicious – food destinations and local experiences across Wellington County. It features a Top 10 Must-Do list, farm outings, food tours, butter tart destinations, pick-your-own locations, eateries, breweries, cideries, local events, and more.

Lacking a central tourism hub, Wellington County and Taste Real have been spearheading tourism efforts. The Food Experience guide drives both visitors and locals to explore our rural areas and uncover the hidden gems they have to offer. Especially during the pandemic, the desire to learn about food and visit rural destinations hit an all-time high. However, the guide provides only a snapshot of what Wellington County has to offer, directing people online to throughout, serving as a gateway to exploring further food and farm experiences and up-to-date offerings.

For many of the farm and food businesses featured within this guide, diversifying to offer a tourism component has proven to be a valuable addition to their business model. For example, it allows farmers to remain on their farms full-time, offering them a more sustainable source of income.

Approximately 50,000 Food Experience Guides were printed on recycled paper in 2022. Distribution of these guides to select locations was undertaken to avoid brochure waste; for instance, the guides were primarily distributed to local businesses and tourism destinations as well as some Ontario travel centres and provincial agriculture and tourism events. This strategic distribution to locations where interested individuals of all ages and demographics were likely to frequent proved to help the Food Experience Guides fly off the shelf.

The Food Experience Guide does not promote mass tourism, but rather draws in consistent small groups of visitors to small businesses. This is a more sustainable way of bringing business to this rural area while not overwhelming the capacity of what these destinations can accommodate. In Wellington County, our main tourism draw is Elora/Fergus – however, the guide promotes further exploration of our more rural area for unique, tailored experiences without overwhelming visitor infrastructure.

Food and agriculture spearhead some of the largest tourism initiatives in Wellington County, including a variety of tourism videos, along with materials such as our Local Food Maps and Food Experience Guides. The Food Experience Guide has enabled us to further establish Wellington County as an accessible agri-food destination and a must-see location within Ontario.