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 were it not for our many dedicated and committed volunteers who give of their time for the love of Canada’s Central Experimental Farm. Whether your interest is to gain valuable skills and experience or simply to contribute to preserving the beauty of the Farm, you will find numerous opportunities through the Friends of the Farm’s well-rounded volunteer program. Below is a list of volunteer activities available.

Below is a list of volunteer activities available. Please download and fill out the form of interest and mail to or drop off at Friends of the Farm, Building 72, Arboretum, CEF, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0C6. For more information, call 230-3276 or email us at volunteer@friendsofthefarm.ca.

Forms and Information: 

Adult: Enrolment and waiver form      FORMULAIRE DE BÉNÉVOLAT

Youth:  Enrolment and waiver form    FORMULAIRE DE BÉNÉVOLAT POUR LES JEUNES

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 to the end of September.

At the end of the day, 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 splendour. 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 consistent 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. There are 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 labour-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 as well as removing grass and invasive plants that pop up between rocks and flagstones.Team members should be agile enough to maintain balance on uneven surfaces. They benefit from the shade provided by the trees, and get firsthand experience with rock garden sites.
  • The Hosta Team tends a secluded garden located along a path leading from the Arboretum circle. They are in the process of redesigning the site, including reseating loose stones and moving large plants to more suitable locations. The team is also involved in identifying and marking varieties.This 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).
  • The Bloom Time Team keeps a record of bloom times for deciduous trees in the Arboretum. Volunteers must be able to locate and identify their target trees and shrubs. Their reward is the stroll in the Arboretum, and the sight of new blooms.
  • The GPS Team assists with recording and input of tree location and identification data on the Farm. Useful skills include data entry and knowledge of trees and shrubs. The data will be used to enhance visitors’ experience of the Farm’s urban forest, as well as to facilitate maintenance and renewal of the trees.
  • Office Support – telephone, email, computer, word processing, newsletter mailing, membership, special projects
  • Communications Team – website, social media, writing, editing, translation, press releases, newsletter
  • Events – organize and coordinate events, promotions, setup/take down of tables/chairs/canopies/signs, cashier, book sorter