volunteer montage

Lilac garden team

Rose garden team

Peony garden team

Iris and daylily garden team

Macoun garden team

Rock garden team

Perennials garden team

Shelterbelt garden team

Arboretum team

Intrepid photographer

The success of the Friends of the Farm would not be possible without our many dedicated and committed volunteers who give their time for the love of Canada’s Central Experimental Farm. Whether you’re interested in gaining valuable skills and experience or simply contributing to the preservation and beauty of the Farm, you’ll find numerous opportunities through the Friends of the Farm’s well-rounded volunteer program. Below is a list of volunteer activities.

If you’d like to become a volunteer, please download and fill out the form that applies to you, and mail to Friends of the Farm, Building 72, Arboretum, CEF, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0C6. For more information, call 613 230 3276 or email us at volunteer@friendsofthefarm.ca


Forms and Information/Formulaires et Informations:



Enrolment and waiver form                   Formulaire de bénévolat 


Read about volunteer opportunities for youth (minimum age 14).

Youth/les jeunes:



Enrolment and waiver form                  Formulaire de bénévolat 



Volunteer Handbook                                           Guide du Bénévole

Code of Conduct                                                    Code de conduite

Volunteer Activities Français

The Friends supply a small army of volunteers to assist Farm staff in tending the Ornamental Gardens, Arboretum, Merivale Shelterbelt, and, occasionally, other parts of the Farm. The teams are generally active during the morning hours from May through the end of September.

Volunteers get an opportunity to contribute to beauty. There is considerable satisfaction in looking at the Gardens or Arboretum and knowing you have helped maintain their splendor. The physical exercise improves flexibility, and many find working with their hands relaxing. Team members are hardworking and very pleasant companions.

The volunteers’ mix of age (minimum age 14 years), gender, and background adds to the enjoyment of being outdoors, socializing, learning about the plants and picking up gardening tips, and, of course, helping the community by improving a great public space!

  • The two Lilac Teams help staff with the Farm’s many lilacs, which include more than 800 specimens of about 325 varieties. Lilacs were introduced at the Farm in the late 1800s and a new species bred in the 1920s. One team focuses on pruning and deadheading lilacs throughout the Farm, the other does weeding and other maintenance work on specimens in the Ornamental Gardens.
  • Two Rose Teams support the long history of rose cultivation at the Farm: the CEF Heritage roses and the “Explorer” series of roses. Roses demand constant attention due to challenges that include removing Japanese beetles every season. The teams assist staff with maintaining and rejuvenating roses through pruning, fertilizing, weeding and replacement, and identification of varieties. The work requires some bending and kneeling to care for the plants, and offers in return the experience of gardening lovely roses in a beautiful setting.
  • The collection of peonies at the Central Experimental Farm is one of the most extensive collections in Canada, with approximately 600 peonies, the majority of which are in located in 16 beds in the Ornamental Gardens. Volunteers on the Peony Team care for this ever-popular flowering plant. Duties include initial cultivation and weeding, supporting with hoops, recording of bloom dates, identifying, summer weeding, and, in the fall, removal of hoops and stem-cutting. While labor-intensive, the work is not difficult and doesn’t involve heavy lifting. There is no fear of pulling out the wrong plant because peonies are easy to recognize. Some team members are peony enthusiasts, while others just like to help out and get some fresh air.
  • The Iris and Daylily Team works on bearded and Siberian irises and daylilies, and helps out occasionally in the rock garden. The work involves digging, replanting, dividing, weeding and clipping – activities that are demanding but not too strenuous.
  • The Macoun Memorial Garden Team does general plant maintenance in this special garden established in the 1930s on the former site of W. T. Macoun’s home. The team keeps perennials and annuals looking fresh throughout the summer. Team members need a basic acquaintance with gardening and weed identification. Their reward is friendship, knowledge of plants, and satisfaction of a job well done.
  • The Rock Garden (or Rockery) Team is a small group working on plants tucked into the rocks of the Ornamental Gardens. These plants include conifer trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, as well as plants typically associated with rock gardens. The team attends to plant care and removes grass and invasive plants that pop up between rocks and flagstones. Team members should be agile enough to maintain balance on uneven surfaces. The team benefits from the shade provided by the trees, and gets firsthand experience with rock garden sites.
  • The Hosta Team tends a secluded garden located along a path leading from the Arboretum circle. The site is being redesigned, including reseating loose stones and moving large plants to more suitable locations. This team is also involved in identifying and marking varieties. The hosts garden is one of the areas on the Farm that is always in shade: a cool place to work. The team may take a break during July-August when there is little to do for hostas except take satisfaction from the results.
  • The Perennials and Annuals Team covers a wide range of plants, weeding and deadheading as needed. Team members put in three hours of physical labour, sometimes in hot summer sun, and need patience in caring for their subjects. This is a versatile team that enjoys the pleasure of being outdoors in beautiful surroundings in the company of like-minded people.
  • The Shelter Belt Team oversees the strip of trees and shrubs along Merivale Road at the western edge of the Farm. Volunteers are responsible for planting and maintenance, including grass-cutting, weeding, and watering. After each growing season, trees are protected with guards and burlap to minimize rodent and salt damage. Physical strength is an asset for this team in view of work demands. Members gain a working knowledge of trees and shrubs and the satisfaction of seeing the landscape evolve from bare ground to a newly forested area.
  • The Arboretum Team focuses on shrubs planted among the trees in the Arboretum. The work includes pruning, edging and weeding. The invasive dog-strangling vine and buckthorn present a constant challenge to the shrubs (and to the team).
  • Communications and Office Support: volunteers assist with our website, social media presence, writing, editing, translation, press releases, newsletter, and/or general office duties when needed.
  • Fundraising Events team organizes and coordinates our annual events and promotions, including setup/take down of tables/chairs/canopies/signs, and cashier; book sorters are also required for our annual used book sale.