Harley Farms is built on strong fundamentals. The Keene-area farm produces high welfare beef, pork, and lamb, as well as eggs, chicken, and turkey. That means ensuring their animals are free from stress, hunger, and thirst, as well as free to exhibit natural behaviours such as foraging and roaming. On top of that foundation, they’ve added agritourism experiences to help show the public exactly what that means.
“People were interested to know exactly what high welfare looks like,” says Veronica Price-Jones, the farm’s education and communications coordinator. “We put it on our packaging—what does it mean, can we prove it? We’re very happy to prove it, very happy to take people out and show them that truly, yes, the pigs are outside all year round. The cows have acres to wander around.”
That much is apparent almost from the moment visitors arrive, with curious sheep bounding up to the fence line, and guinea fowl sheltering in the shade. As the tour progresses across the property, Price-Jones hopes to help people deepen their understanding of the natural world, and the way agriculture can fit sustainably within it. “We make a few different stops at the fields with the sheep, the pigs, and the cows,” she says.
One stop the tour doesn’t make is in a barn, in keeping with the emphasis on allowing the animals to live outdoors. It makes for a pretty walk around the grounds, though Price-Jones explains the appeal goes well beyond aesthetics. “As someone with an environmental background, that was a big draw for me, to see that there’s still 150 acres of natural cover out of 850 acres of space. Nothing is overgrazed so everything can regenerate.”
Tours are available year round, and provided they’re up for a bit of walking, people of all ages are welcome on the tours. Price-Jones says grandparents often bring their grandkids, sometimes because they grew up on a farm themselves and want to teach the younger generation about that lifestyle—an element that’s very much the focus of the tour. “I do try to be clear with people that it’s a working farm. It’s not a petting zoo, so we’re out to show people exactly what we do. If they want something more interactive we have options like that too.”
More hands-on options include bottle feeding lambs whose mothers didn’t produce enough milk, a seasonal activity available in springtime. For visitors who really want to get their boots muddy, the “Farmer for a Morning” experience is open year round and allows participants to actually climb over fences and feed or pet the animals. In the near future, Price-Jones is looking to bring a certified forest therapy guide onboard to host walks.
After a tour is complete, anyone hoping to bring home Harley Farms products has a few options. A farm store right on the property sells frozen meats, while the recently acquired Harley Farms Butcher Shop (formerly Sweet Beast) at 95 Hunter St E. in Peterborough offers fresh cuts. Harley Farms also runs an online store, and supplies over 50 retailers and wholesalers through the province.
Price-Jones is a relatively new addition to Harley Farms, which has operated as a family business on the Keene property since 2002. Working with a small, friendly team is rewarding, but the appeal goes beyond simply that.
“I think there’s a danger in today’s society of a disconnect with the natural world, and with where your food comes from,” she says. “People just don’t know why it’s important, why it’s special, but when you can bring them out and make those connections—when people can see a pig, sometimes for the first time in their lives, or walk and see leopard frogs leaping out from beneath their feet—that becomes a very special memory that’s tied to this place. Tied to being outside and being on a farm.”