Markham’s farmyard, a summertime staple for more than 60 years, is bidding a fond farewell to the city that supported it for so long — but not without one last hurrah first.
Whittamore’s Farm is closing to the public in November after one last action-packed season.
“It was not an easy decision. My brother and I probably spent a couple of years talking about it,” said Mike Whittamore, co-owner of the farm. “We wanted to rebalance our lives… We were ready for a change. We needed a break.”
The brothers talked about scaling back their summertime offerings and toyed with different strategies and scenarios, but in the end, they knew they needed a clean break.
“We want to have some different experiences in life and pursue some other opportunities,” said Whittamore, who’s spent 39 years in the family business with just one summer off. “It’s kind of a bit of an open book right now.”
Whittamore’s Farm has always been a family affair. The 330-acre spot has been handed down from generation to generation since 1804. Over the past 60 years, the family has grown the business considerably to include a pumpkin patch, pick-your-own fruit and veggie plots, a farm fun yard for children and a farm store.
But with the next generation of Whittamores pursuing their own opportunities, and showing no signs of slowing down, the brothers decided they couldn’t carry on without some new help.
“If at some point one of them, or several of them, want to come back and get involved in the business then we would accommodate that,” said Whittamore. “But we weren’t going to keep running the business and wait for that to happen.”
Whittamore said he’s keeping his options open for the farm’s future but has every intention of growing at least some crops. But one thing is for sure, the prime land won’t be parcelled off and sold to make way for green space in the GTA and residential development.
“Some land is going to be imminently transferred to the Rouge National Urban Park, which is a great thing because one of the four main goals of the park is building a vibrant agricultural community,” said Whittamore. “The other part is in the greenbelt. So there is no development potential for this land.”
Whittamore and his brother were prepared to close quietly at the end of the season, but their wives talked them into making their plans public. Given the well wishes they’ve received so far, both brothers are glad they did.
“We really do know this is not just our farm. Some families have three and four generations that have been coming here to the farm,” he said.
“The support has been overwhelming… I think we’re going to have a really busy summer because a lot of people want to make sure they get back here one last time.”
Whittamore’s Farm has more than 110 employees during peak season and nearly 300,000 visitors each year.
Visit www.whittamoresfarm.com for details.