Central Experimental Farm

The Central Experimental Farm (CEF) is an agricultural facility, working farm, and research centre of the Research Branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. As the name indicates, this farm is centrally located in and completely surrounded by the City of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The whole farm is a National Historic Site and most buildings are protected and preserved as heritage buildings. It has an area of 4 square kilometres. The CEF original intent was to perform scientific research for improvement in agricultural methods and crops. While such research is still being conducted, the park-like atmosphere of the CEF has become an important place of recreation and education for the residents of Ottawa. Furthermore, over the years several other departments and agencies have encroached onto the CEF property, such as Natural Resources Canada, National Defence (HMCS Carleton on Dow's Lake), and the Ottawa Civic Hospital (helicopter pad). The CEF is bordered by the Rideau Canal (a National Historic Site as well) to the east, by Baseline Road to the south, by Merivale and Fisher Roads to the west, and Carling Avenue to the north. Features of interest on the CEF site are:
  • Dominion Observatory
  • Canada Agriculture Museum
  • Dominion Arboretum
  • Ornamental Gardens, consisting of:
  • the perennial collection
  • the rock garden
  • the rose garden
  • the annuals garden
  • the Macoun Memorial Garden
  • the hedge collection
Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site of Canada Central Experimental Farm Country Canada Province Ontario Municipality Ottawa Administrative body Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Year built 1886 Website Official website
  • Fletcher Wildlife Garden
Notable office and research buildings on the CEF are:
  • Sir John Carling Building
  • Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre (ECORC)/ K.W. Neatby Building
  • Skyline Building, 1341 Baseline Road.
  • The Canadian 4-H Council and Canadian 4-H Foundation

The Victorian era was a time of great interest in the advancement of natural sciences and many nations built zoos, observatories, botanical gardens, and experimental farms. Canada followed suit and as the result of lobbying by John Carling, the Minister of Agriculture, and William E. Saunders, the first director of the research branch, the "Act Respecting Experimental Stations" came into force in 1886. The CEF started out with 188 hectares, chosen because of their proximity to Parliament Hill but (at that time) outside the city. Over the next few years the site was prepared by improving the land, building the facilities, and planting the Arboretum and forest belt. Early research projects focussed only on entomology, botany, and horticulture. In 1889, livestock was introduced to the CEF. Over the years the scope of research grew and changed, prompting a need to increase the farm's lands and buildings. The Horticulturalist's house and staff residences were removed by the 1930s (they were no longer needed since the city had grown around the farm), the forest belt gradually disappeared, and new larger centralized facilities were built, starting with the Saunders Building in 1935, followed by the Neatby Building, Geophysical Lab, Laboratory Services Building, and the Carling Building. In 1983, the agricultural museum was created in the former Dairy Barn. The CEF was designated as a National Historic Site in 1998. In 2003, Public Works and Government Services Canada bought the Skyline office complex on the corner of Merivale and Baseline Roads from Nortel Networks. The complex has been renamed to "NHCAP" (= National Headquarters Complex for the Agriculture Portfolio). The head offices of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have been relocated from the Sir John Carling Building to this facility.

Building Activity

  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com