Nestled in Southern Ontario lies the stunning rural lands of Oxford County. Well known for its local eats, scenic trails, historic architecture and art galleries,
Oxford County is a sought out tourist destination for many. Those who travel to Oxford tend to miss out on many of the hidden treasures the County has to offer. Wouldn’t it be great to tour Oxford like a local? If you’re tired of visiting Oxford and walking around blind, let Tourism Oxford maximize your tourism experience by getting first hand information directly from the locals about the trendy places to eat, places to meet, and sights to greet!
Let me hand it over to Gabby to give you the details…
Gabby, care to introduce yourself and Tourism Oxford?
My name is Gabby and I work as the Tourism Officer for Oxford County. I write content to bring visitors to Oxford County and also create some videos as well. Along with my team, I work with tourism partners in the county including everything from restaurants to farms, museums and more. Tourism Oxford promotes Oxford as a travel destination to a wide audience and helps people discover new places.
Can you tell us a little bit about the initiatives Tourism Oxford runs to support local food in Oxford County?
Tourism Oxford’s local food initiatives run under two main projects. The first is Oxford Fresh- a product created in cooperation with the On
ario Federation of Agriculture to encourage both locals and visitors alike to eat local food that is in tune with the seasons. In order to bring this product together,
we have created a map showcasing farm gate businesses, markets, local producers and growers.
The second local food initiative we run is the Oxford County Cheese Trail! This trail features 23 curated stops in Oxford where people can find a unique cheese or dairy offer and includes cheese from five different Oxford County cheese makers. It’s a great trip idea for a day or weekend with friends, family or your sweetheart. Just remember to bring you stretchy pants!
What is the history of dairy in Oxford County and what makes it the Dairy Capital of Canada?
Oxford’s dairy heritage runs pretty deep. As early as the 1800s, Oxford was home to over 90 cheese factories. This tradition has held strong with some of the country’s most innovative and talented cheese makers calling Oxford their home today. Keeping in line with our dairy capital title Oxford still produces over one billion glasses of milk each year. Along the way, Oxford has accomplished some pretty legendairy firsts and accomplishments including:
- Harvey Farrington created Canada’s first cheese cooperative in Norwich, ON
- In 1866 cheese maker James Harris created the ‘mammoth wheel’ of cheese weighing in at 7300lbs
- Lydia Ranney opened Canada’s first cheese making school
- Home of the Springbank Snow Countess (who held the world record for butterfat production), you can see a replica of this famous bovine in Woodstock
- Home of the Oxford County Cheese Trail, the Dairy Capital Cheese Fest and Big Cheese Days!
- Almost 40 prestigious cheese making awards won over the past five years at the Canadian Grand Prix, Empire Cheese Awards and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair by cheese makers on the trail
- The Oxford County Cheese Trail was the proud recipient for the award for Culinary Leadership in 2016 from the Culinary Tourism Alliance
What can people expect to experience on the Oxford County Cheese Trail?
When you come for a trip along the Oxford County Cheese Trail you can expect to have a bunch of fun and leave super full. It’s a great way to unwind a bit as you drive our back country roads (they’re so pretty!) If you’re only coming for one day, I’d recommend picking one or two towns and visiting all the stops there. A cheese factory tour is a must but there are also so many great restaurants with cheesy menu items plus museums and galleries telling the story of our cheesy past. Whether you fancy craft beer or family fun there’s definitely a stop (or two or three) for you! You can download the guid
e at www.OxfordCountyCheeseTrail.ca or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like us to mail you a hard copy!
What trends have you noticed with culinary and agri-tourism in the county and how does this tourism industry support these local producers, restaurants and artisans?
The major trend I’ve seen since joining Tourism Oxford is the desire people have to know where their food in coming from. As such, we’re encouraging our local food producers, restaurants and artisans to do an excellent job telling their story. While so many of these businesses have been using, growing and producing local food for years- the tourism side is getting them to tell people about it. We have so many food champions and we want to help them tell their story.
Another agri-tourism trend we’re seeing is of course the upswing in sustainable tourism. While this isn’t just limited to food- it’s a big part. People want to know not only where their food is coming from but that it’s being produced in the most responsible way possible. We have some fantastic partners using some great, cutting edge sustainable practices.
Finally, people are looking for a hands-on culinary experience and Oxford is in a great position to provide that. Whether it be eating at the Chef’s Table at SixThirtyNine, enjoying yoga in the blueberries at Berrylicious or checking out how our local craft brewery pairs their beers with a local chocolatier- the opportunities for these experiences are endless.
You’re a local resident in Oxford County! What are some of your favourite places to get local food?
I could never narrow it down enough! There are so many choices when you’re in Oxford- sometimes I have a hard time choosing where to each my lunch next!! I would definitely recommend heading over to www.OxfordFresh.ca to see a list of restaurants using local ingredients and farmers to visit.
Bio: Gabrielle Bossy is the Tourism Officer with Tourism Oxford. She specializes in content creation both online and in print (written and video). An Oxford County native, she gets to promote her own home every day! Follow Oxford Tourism on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Nicole VanQuaethem is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Regional Ambassador with FreshSpoke. You can connect with Nicole on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram and keep up with FreshSpoke on Facebook and Twitter.