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Marketing Matters: It’s all about the on-farm experience

February 22, 2019  By Cathy Bartolic

You may have noticed a shift in the last few years from people buying gifts and products, to people who are looking for a special experience for themselves and their families.

A survey conducted by Travelzoo in 2015 indicated that up to 80 per cent of Canadians polled applauded experiential gifts over physical items. Is this another trend spearheaded by the baby boomer generation? These folks have houses filled with things they have bought or received over the decades and many are looking at downsizing and reducing their “stuff” inventory, or perhaps it is the minimalist movement that is seeping into our lives? Sparse Nordic design elements are being adopted by more and more North Americans. Another factor could be that city living has become so expensive in places like Toronto and Vancouver that most people can only afford tiny apartments or condos and they have no room for extraneous items.

For whatever reason, the experiential movement is on the rise. According to Cindy Chan, a Toronto expert on consumer behaviour, “It’s all about emotion. Whether you take someone to a cooking lesson or a rock concert, the outing will pay off in a stronger social bond between giver and recipient.”


Even Airbnb, an online marketplace and hospitality service, has noticed the interest in experiential events. They are now offering experiences.

Nicole Judge of Spirit Tree Estate Cidery was in Italy with her family on a vacation recently and she was looking into some of the Airbnb Experience offerings. They signed up for truffle hunting. For this experience they joined a small group of other interested travellers and were taken out to the woods with dogs that had been trained to find truffles. After the hunting expedition, a meal was created at the farm by a chef using the truffles that were found that day. Nicole and her family thoroughly enjoyed the experience and have told many of their friends about it.

Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association member, Rebecca Landman from Landman Gardens has tapped into the experience market by offering dinners in the Blackhouse on her farm. Her dad is very involved in dry stone structures and the building was put together during a dry-stone convention on the farm a few years ago. It has an intimate setting and can only hold about 20 people. Her dinners have been sold out this year. She also has the Blackhouse available for private parties or special events that her customers would like to celebrate. Because of the construction of the building, the weather only allows for the use of it from April to mid-November but that just adds to the feeling of exclusivity and uniqueness.

Experience PEI is a leader in this field. Their website describes them as Prince Edward Island’s leading provider of authentic experiences. Eat, play and make your way through their many unique, hands-on adventures, connect with interesting Islanders and make memories to last a lifetime.

 Beachcomber clam boil, sensational sandcastles and hills, hay and herding are just some of the experiences they offer. Bill and Mary Kendrick stumbled upon this entrepreneurial opportunity when they were innkeepers on the Island. Their guests would talk excitedly about their day exploring the beautiful Island and seemed especially animated when they could recount chance meetings with Islanders who were willing to share stories of life there. Rather than leave these memorable experiences to chance, the Kendricks decided to develop unique exclusive opportunities for visitors to meet interesting Islanders doing interesting things and experience what life is truly like on Prince Edward Island.

There are many special experiences to be shared on every farm. How about making your own tea from fresh herbs, soup workshops or creating a salad in a jar from fresh picked vegetables? The opportunities are endless if we look for them.

Cathy Bartolic is the executive director of Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association, which works to promote and provide education for the direct farm sales industry.

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