Ont. producer wins tourism initiative award

Ont. producer wins tourism initiative award
May 11, 2021

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Matthew Larivee will use his prize money to add to his yurt business

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A Northern Ontario farmer will use prize money from a recent competition to add on to his tourism business.

Matthew Larivee, owner of Foxfire Heritage Farm in Powassan Ont., received $3,000 and three months of mentorship and services from Tourism Excellence North as one of the three winners of the Northern Ontario “Spark” Program tourism innovation award.

The award is a collaboration between Destination Northern Ontario, Excellence North and the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab.

Larivee hosts workshops and raises heritage chickens, cows and pigs on his 100-acre farm. He also runs a yurt business.

“A yurt is a circular lattice-walled tent-like structure with a canvas covering,” Larivee told Farms.com. “It’s native to Mongolia other parts of Eastern Asia. It was used by the nomadic people there to follow herds of sheep and cattle.”

Guests can rent out yurts on Larivee’s farm, unplug from society and enjoy nature.

“It’s an off-grid experience,” he said. “While guests are here, they’re encouraged to walk the (70 acres of) trails on the farm and learn about agriculture and the heritage breeds we work with. It’s a working farm so they’ll likely see me cutting hay or doing other farm chores.”

Larivee taught himself to build the structures.

He built and converted two individual yurts into a double yurt. One has an 18-foot (5.4-metre) diameter and the other has a 14-foot (4.2-metre) diameter. Together they make a figure eight.

Inside the structure is a wood stove, table, pull-out couch, double bed and chair.

The prize money will go towards building a 20-foot (6.9-metre) yurt and some other amenities, Larviee said.

“In addition to the second yurt we’re setting up signage around the farm to inform guests about agriculture and are going to build a sauna by our pond,” he said. “That way guests can use that, stay clean and stay on the farm without smelling like the farm.”

Larivee started offering yurt stays in 2019 and received positive feedback from guests.

He was gearing up for another busy season, but the pandemic has thrown a wrench into this year’s operation, he said.

“We’ve been quite busy when we’re allowed to be open,” he said. “But unfortunately, we’re not allowed to take any bookings right now. We had a fairly booked up May, but it looks like we’ll have to cancel bookings into early June.”

Philip Arneill/National Geographic photo

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