Haunted hayrides, pumpkin patches, summer mazes, a Country Christmas… If you live in Ottawa, you know Saunders Farm. An iconic local attraction established in 1976 by Bill and Anne Saunders, the 100-acre working farm has welcomed more than 1.2 million guests over the years! Family-owned to this day, Saunders Farm works tirelessly to bring new entertainment to adults and kids alike year-round, always adding more fun experiences. Case in point, this year marks the first anniversary of Saunders Cider!
“It was a dream of mine for many years. Never wait to pursue your dreams,” says the Director of Fun and one of the four Saunders kids, Mark Saunders. “We always do a lot on the farm and during the first lockdowns, we had a bit of newly free time. I took a university course to learn how to make cider and started working on getting our liquor license. It’s the perfect product for us—it’s agricultural, seasonal, we get to grow more food on the farm and it’s fun!”
“Just after six weeks of starting my course, serendipity helped us too—we heard that a local cider maker, Flying Canoe, was up for sale,” recalls Saunders. “First we said, ‘We are doing our own thing,’ but then we chose to jumpstart the process instead. We bought Flying Canoe and started working on new flavours of cider with the proper equipment and expertise right away. In the first year, we produced five new flavours, which is unheard of in the cider world.”
Saunders and his team renovated the oldest building on the property, a 200-year-old log cabin, into a cider house and tap room which fits 80, has a fireplace, a patio and welcomes guests for a complete tasting experience.
This summer, Saunders Cider introduced a new flavour: strawberry rhubarb, which Saunders says “is the best but I am biased. It’s a throwback to when Saunders Farm was known for being a strawberry farm in the 1970s.”
The company is also launching a new anniversary cider, starting a new tradition—every year that passes will have its own flavour dedicated to it. In 2022, Saunders adds Sixth Line anniversary cider to the roster: “It’s a champagne flavour so it’s a little dry and has extra bubbles. When I was growing up, Bleeks Road was called the Sixth Line so we are reaching back to our heritage and celebrating the business.”
I also got to learn about a brand new and VERY exciting addition to the farm: the Cider House is getting a beautiful new wood-fired pizza oven. “It will perfectly complement the ciders and we will be doing pairings with our different flavours,” shares Saunders. “We are starting to make pizza on August 15th!”
Plus, on the weekend of August 12th, the Farm is launching A Midsummer Night’s Scream and more scariness. “We are starting our haunts early so people can get a full experience and a sneak peek of what’s new: we completely refurbished the Barn of Terror and it’s the best thing we’ve ever done—people will be blown away and really scared at the same time,” says Saunders. “We added a whole new attraction in the cemetery and we are opening the Coven this weekend too. Plus, the live shows are coming back to the Ghost Town stage. AND the Sawmill at Lansdowne is being expanded by 20 per cent!”
Safe to say Saunders and team are putting in an endless amount of work so we can have fun (and be scared) and the spirit of the original Saunders Farm is preserved to this day. Now, who’s coming for pizza and cider with us?