In 1978, the Riverdale Zoo (Toronto Zoo) completed its transition to the Riverdale Farm and opened its doors to the public. The City of Toronto, along with members of the community, believed that having it in the heart of the city would give Torontonians an opportunity to experience farm life.
The grounds were repurposed for farm life and accompanying buildings were added over the years that would provide program rooms, a pottery studio and much-needed additional washroom facilities. The grounds would also now host a variety of programming and events like summer camps, the Little Farmer program, pottery classes, painting, felting, spinning, baking and cooking workshops.
Much of the original buildings remained in tact as well. The Residence (which housed zookeepers and a medical office) Donnybrook, Island House, as well as the bridge to the lower pond, and the stone wall along the middle roadway of the property are still present today.
When the farm opened, several domesticated animals were present with Riverdale Farm and the community wishing to preserve heritage breeds that were becoming rare with commercial farm production, breeds that were more representative of those that were recorded on the Ontario Stock records circa 1920.
Here are some images that I took in 2016.
Events for Riverdale Farm’s 40th Anniversary
Blair’s Run – this annual 2KM Cabbagetown run and walk supported Riverdale Farm with its proceeds this year, totaling over $17,300. Proceeds are being matched up to $30,000 by Burnbrae Farms to support enhancements to the Farm’s buildings and programming in the years to come.
40th Anniversary Fundraiser Barn BBQ – Will take place on September 28 at the Farm, 6:30-9:30pm. Tickets are $40 and proceeds will support educational programming at the Farm in the months to come. Visitors can expect local food, music and drinks amongst neighbours and friends.
40th Anniversary Farm Open House – September 29, 10am-4pm. This event is free (admission to the Farm always is.) Visitors to the Farm can expect free face painting, along with workshops and demonstrations by The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Harrowsmith Magazine and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
The Riverdale Farm Stewardship Group recently designed and launched a new website for the Farm, www.RiverdaleFarmToronto.ca with the help of Meridian Credit Union’s Cabbagetown Branch and JAW Advertising, a milestone for the group and a way for the public to quickly access information about this unique property.
The Riverdale Farm Stewardship Group works with the Toronto Parks and Trees foundation in collecting and raising funds for capital improvements to the Farm, and provided significant funding towards the renovation of Simpson House, the building at the Farm’s front gates. This is done in part through online donations, events, and from coin boxes located on the Farm property.
The Farm also hosts Boo Barn, which includes pumpkin carving ($5 per) and other seasonal activities for visitors towards the end of October (October 20-21 this year).
Here are some photos from the original zoo. (1912 – 1931)