Tucked away on Amherst Island in Lake Ontario, about 10 kilometers west of Kingston, Ontario sits Topsy Farms, known around the world for their sheep products: 100% pure wool blankets, sheepskins, and ethically and humanely raised lamb. First begun as an intentional community in 1971, the residents purchased their first sheep in 1974 (50 ewes from Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, in case you were wondering). As of 2014, the farm is home to around 1400 lambs, all born on pasture.
But Topsy Farms is more than just a sheep farm! They were recently awarded our Sustainable Tourism Gold certification for their commitment to environmental stewardship and for continuing to be a community champion, hosting events like their Dry Stone Festival, yarn dyeing, an annual forager’s retreat and dinner, and more that bring folks together regionally and beyond. On the farm itself, visitors are able to access a butterfly marshland, view birds of prey in their natural habitat, and the dry stone wall, all of which the members of the farm and surrounding community are actively involved with. In addition, the Farm recently aligned with Amherst Island Bike Rental and installed a new bike rack, cut right into a natural stone wall to promote active transportation to and around the farm.
Topsy Farms views the generational transition happening on the farm presently as an opportunity to promote both its ethical sheep farm operations and events, positioning itself as an agri-tourism destination. The people at Topsy Farms truly care about community: members recently established a Monarch Way Station on the home farm, and are constantly coordinating fresh food pickups from their gardens to Kingston shelters and food programmes. They are always improving their grounds and infrastructure in a way that enhances natural habitat for native species, and allows access to guests (see their recently cleared pathway towards their Sugar Shack and mezzanine platform for sheep viewing!).
As people around the world start to take greater interest in where their food comes from, and as tourists begin to seek out unique destinations that put them in touch with their food supply, Topsy Farms provides an access point and educational opportunity to meet that need.