A “mystery bus tour” isn’t a new concept to all Soil & Crop members in Ontario, but it was new in Northumberland this summer.

With less than one week’s notice, members in Northumberland were invited to meet up at one of two locations, get on a bus, and see where it would take them for the day. From the few brave enough to try this out for the first time, there have been rave reviews!

The bus tour made the rounds through Prince Edward County this year, just in time to see some early harvest activities. Apples were coming off the trees at Campbell’s Orchard. Colin Campbell personally guided members around the establishment and openly discussed his business activities with participants.

After being introduced to cider production at Campbell’s, the group then travelled to the east end of The County to meet the owner of County Cider Company. Jennifer Dean explained the philosophies behind the varietal selections that are made for their own production and even shared some information about the soils which impact the apples grown on location. Northumberland Soil & Crop members were then treated to their chef’s selections of wood fired pizzas and hard cider samplings for lunch on the patio, which overlooks Lake Ontario.

After lunch, the bus returned to the east end of Prince Edward County to Pleasant Valley Hops, the most highly anticipated stop on the tour for most participants who had never seen hops before. Edgar Ramirez and Catherine Crawford shared how they had originally started as grape growers but continue to expand into hops production. They gave a group tour of the hops yard, showing both the harvest ready cones that hung on 18 feet tall vines and the final pelletized product. Since harvest activities were on hold for the day, Edgar was even able to tour the group through all the on-farm handling facilities and surprised some members by explaining that the pellets are finished in Northumberland County.

The last tour stop of the day was just a little further down the road at Sandbanks Winery. Gord Savage was on hand and ready to share all the farm details of the vineyard. He recounted how the property was converted for grape production, sharing all the tractor modifications necessary for vineyard work and highlighting processing equipment that had been repurposed from the dairy industry. Many members were intrigued to learn about harvest parties which depend on community volunteers in order to bring the crop in by hand.

Many thanks to all of the informative tour guides at each location, to C.S. Smith Bus Lines for providing the bus, and Eric Lawlor, Ian Laver, and Mark Burnham for all their efforts in organizing the day.

If you have ideas for a future “Mystery Bus Tour,” tell your local director where you’d like to go next!