About the Farm

The Central Experimental Farm (CEF) is 427 ha (1,055 acres) of open space in central Ottawa, the capital of Canada. The Farm has a dual role; (1) home to the corporate headquarters of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and associated agriculture agencies, and (2) site for one of the ministry's 19 national science locations (the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre-ECORC). The CEF dates from 1886. Its original mandate was to be the central or focal point for a Canada-wide system of experimental farms to help resolve farm production questions. From an initial 5 sites, this national network has grown into a partnership of 19 and now includes multiple locations, sub stations and field sites in every Canadian province.

The Farm site was founded on the outskirts of Ottawa, however with city growth it now is truly a unique feature of downtown Ottawa. It borders the historic Rideau Canal. The Central Experimental Farm with its long science history has been recognized with the designation of "National Historic Site" for its many accomplishments that have supported Canadian growth and development. The CEF cropping fields and plot areas have played an essential part in many research and development successes. These include new cereal grains such as wheat varieties which have proven to be highly adapted to Canadian soils and weather. These varieties have demonstrated their value as they helped open up the Canadian prairies to agricultural production during the 20th century.

In recognition of the Farm's historic significance to help ensure the continuing historic site designation, the Central Experimental Farm Advisory Council was established in 1999 to ensure public participation in its management. To balance the Farm's dual role as National Historic Site and an active research centre, the Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site Management Plan provides the Farm's long-term management framework.

The CEF through ECORC is home to the Canadian National Collection of insects, plants, mushrooms and fungi.

The CEF has housed many diverse research programs which have come and gone depending on national agri-science priorities (frequently the CEF was the relevant national centre). Examples include; -soils and Canadian land inventory; food and dairy products processing technology; horticulture and ornamental plant breeding; agriculture engineering and farm mechanical systems; animal and poultry breeding and production; agricultural and forest insect identification and control methods; agricultural chemistry analysis methodology; plant and animal pathology, bacteriology and plant health; cereal and forage crop production utilization; tobacco; bee research. Frequently the research subject ranged from the whole organism down to the cellular or more recently the molecular level.

Plant studies on frost hardiness and survival through the harsh Canadian winter has left a lasting legacy of beauty on the CEF. Earlier work with ornamental flowers and trees resulted in two public areas which are very popular. The Dominion Arboretum and the adjacent Ornamental Gardens have matured and provide visual evidence of research successes of the past. Other displays of lilacs, flowering shrubs, roses and shelterbelt hedges are located around the Farm site.

Several former research and operational support buildings have been redeveloped, primarily for the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum which is a prime tourist location on the CEF. Two additional organizations have significant public outreach programs using the grounds and facilities of the Central Experimental Farm. For information see the Friends of the Farm, and the Fletcher Wildlife Garden of the Ottawa Field Naturalists.

On the northern edge of the CEF site are offices and laboratories of the Earth Sciences Sector, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and their Dominion Observatory. A text describing the historic role of Dominion Observatory can be found on the web.

In summary, the CEF is well into a second century as a location for successfully addressing Canadian science and production problems, while providing beautiful surroundings in which to do it.

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