There’s a little slice of heaven in Oro-Medonte, where you can turn the world off and get back to nature.
At Glen Oro Farm, guests can escape the city and take part in a boutique trail ride experience, celebrate milestones, and spend the night in a luxury glamping eco-retreat in the woods.
“We take guests from their vehicle and we sweep them down into the forest into this little valley and up to their accommodation,” Glen Oro chief experience officer Luke Sedgwick says of the farm’s glamping experience. “They enter this little hidden village in the forest, and it puts people into this semi-surreal environment.
“It’s an hour and half from Toronto, we’re not this crazy place so far away, but it makes you feel like you’re far away because it gets people out of their comfort zone," he explained. "They don’t have their car right beside their accommodation, they’re in this place where they don’t have a TV, they are focusing more on the essentials in life.”
The agritourism business has a focus on sustainability, with an added emphasis on luxury. Experiences are done privately with small groups, and service is always the priority.
Guests can choose to cook for themselves, or they can have brunch or charcuterie boxes prepared by Chopped Canada champion Chef Melanie Robinson, owner of local restaurant Eclectic Café, delivered straight to their door.
For an even more luxurious option, guests can have local Chef Paul of Laforet Catering join them at their firepit to prepare a private meal of their choosing.
“He’s doing tomahawk steaks, he’s making dough and putting it on the fire to make flatbreads, he’s charring swiss chard over the coals, it’s incredible,” Sedgwick says.
Guests can take part in boutique horseback riding trail rides in private or small groups. Trail rides can be booked for day visitors or as a package deal for glamping guests. Riders get a basic horsemanship lesson and the chance to ride through the farm’s undulating fields and forests.
In the development phase, Sedgwick turned to the Orillia Area Community Development Corp. (CDC) for advice on how to turn his idea into reality.
“I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know exactly how to implement it and I didn’t have a ton of funds either, so I approached them for business advice, and they provided me with incredibly helpful templates to get my business plan out of my brain and onto paper,” he says.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sedgwick went back to the CDC for help to access the federal government’s Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, which provided assistance to businesses and communities that need support to cope and recover from the pandemic.
During the recent State of Emergency, Sedgwick closed the business to guests, but still had daily expenses to keep the farm running. He has also been working to expand the farm’s glamping offerings by including more units in line with their second phase of the project, so he had labour costs to consider.
“Those costs didn’t stop (when we shut down),” he says. “The CDC basically kept us afloat during our period of shutdown. Without that funding I would have had to really slow everything down and possibly look for outside investment.”
“I’ve tried to avoid any kind of investors because it is a family farm, and I don’t want to have outside influences. You lose some of the creative control if people are just concerned about the bottom line," said Sedgwick. "So, we would’ve had to pump the breaks, stop development and possibly look for outside investors or loans with terrible interest rates just to get by.”
Sedgwick says he is happy with his relationship with his local CFDC and he’s thankful for everything they have been able to provide him.
“I’m just happy we have something like that in our area,” he says. “They’ve helped out a lot of businesses and I think they have the interests of the local community at heart, which is the most important thing.”
In addition to providing a luxurious retreat from the hustle and bustle of life, Glen Oro Farm is also a place for guests to learn about the environment and the impact we have on the planet.
Cabins are outfitted with eco-conscious amenities to minimize the carbon footprint of the farm. Ensuite bathrooms are fitted with composting toilets and each cabin comes with a compost and recycling bin. UV-filtered water is pumped into the cabins, which helps discourage guests from using plastic bottled water. There is even a large vegetable garden where guests can harvest their own food in season.
But overall, Sedgwick just wants his guests to relax and enjoy their stay.
“Up until the pandemic, everyone had schedules. You were always on this track where you’re so busy, but you don’t remember why you’re busy,” Sedgwick says. “It’s really nice to slow things down, to just think & be still, while being present in the moment.”
For more information about Glen Oro Farm visit www.glenoro.com or contact 705-326-1504.
For more information on the Orillia Area Community Development Corp. (CDC) visit www.orilliacdc.com or contact 705-325-4903 x 101.