Rebecca Mackenzie practices what she preaches when it comes to the Terroir Run.

Terroir Run 2016 by Jo Dickins

Participants at the beginning of the 2016 Terroir Run at The Old Third Winery. Photo: Jo Dickins.

Rebecca Mackenzie (formerly LeHeup) will be familiar to regular GFR readers as the head of the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance and Co-Chair of the Terroir Symposium; two organizations we’ve reported on and worked with many, many times. As OCTA Executive Director, and as a private consultant, Mackenzie spends the bulk of her time helping regions in Ontario, and around the world, connect their tourism industry to local food. What she says she promotes above all else is “taste of place”.

Mackenzie and her husband, Andrew have a special connection to one region in Ontario in particular, Prince Edward County, where they have a home (they also maintain a residence in Toronto). Every year the Mackenzies organize the Terroir Run, where Rebecca gets a chance to practice what she preaches at her own culinary tourism event.

The Mackenzies are friends of mine and this year they convinced me to participate in the Terroir Run at the end of May and I covered it here for GFR. When I recently received an email inviting me to register for next year’s run this week, I took the opportunity to call Rebecca up and find out what’s going on for the seventh annual run and get the back story behind its inception.

The interview below has been edited for length, clarity and style.

Rebecca Mackenzie OCTA

Rebecca Mackenzie organizes the Terroir Run with her husband Andrew.

This interview has been edited for length, clarity and style.

Good Food Revolution: That was quick! You have a new Terroir Run all planned out already?

Rebecca Mackenzie: Well, this year we sold out nearly as soon as we could in February or March. And we heard from our runners that they wanted us to get it organized earlier because they wanted to make plans to stay for the weekend. The County is becoming such a hot spot, for so many reasons, that it can be hard to find accommodations unless you book far ahead. So, we’ve put an offer out for a previous runners first, they had two weeks to sign back up, and then this Saturday we opened up registration to the public.

GFR: There’s more happening this year. Tell me about the new events.

RM: Absolutely. We’ll be doing the dinner again on Friday night at County Road Beer Comapny. (That’s a separate ticket.) It’s a gorgeous  buffet dinner made of all sorts of local County ingredients and served with beer from the brewery or sparkling wine from Hinterland, their sister winery. And then of course there’s the run in the morning. Then, the wine, beer, cider, pizza and salad lunch at Norman Hardie Winery, where the run finishes. And then this year we’re adding a Back To The Start Dinner where we literally go back to the start of the run at the Old Third Winery with Jamie Kennedy serving up his famous frites with County burgers and a really fun barn party with live music and dancing. And, of course, the wine, beer and cider will be from all the places we pass by on our run.

GFR: So, the question that I want to ask you, because I thought it might be kind of interesting to talk about, is do you enjoy organizing the run because it’s a kind of practical and personal way for you to test out the advice you give to so many tourism organizations?

RM: Yeah! I’m practicing what I preach. And I do love talking about the success of it. [Laughs.] Running an event is a lot of work. And we choose to get all of our products from County suppliers, or Ontario suppliers. For instance, our T-shirts every year are a custom design and ordered to size to each runner. We use Me to We who make god quality shirt that, hopefully, people will wear after the run.

GFR: How did it start?

RM: It was a lark. Andrew and I wanted to sign up for the Ottawa Marathon but it was sold out. It was April and we were on a patio drinking a bottle of Carolyn Grainger’s wine, from The Grange. And we thought, why don’t we do our own run? We hatched the idea that day, and the next day we visited all the wineries and got their buy-in. By the end of the week we had a website up and we’re registering people. I think the first year we had 70 runners, and every year it’s grown. 2017 will be our seventh year, and 2016 was the biggest run we’ve had. We had to cap it out at 125.

GFR: And that’s it?

RM: 125 is the maximum we can do because it’s really about the experience. That’s as many as we can fit on the road and at the finish at Norm Hardie’s. He doesn’t have more capacity, and we stress out his staff as it is. We’ve thought about getting a tent and going bigger, but that would lose the flavour of the event. We love the opportunity to run with our runners, meet everybody, talk to them. And meet our purveyors. It’s a really fun intimate event.

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