Farms in and around Airdrie and Rocky View County (RVC) will join others across the province in encouraging visitors to tour their sites for Open Farm Days Aug. 17 and 18.
“Alberta Open Farm Days is a province-wide event inviting Albertans to learn about and experience rural life and local foods,” said Nicola Doherty, marketing co-ordinator with Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies. “This is Alberta’s seventh Open Farm Day weekend.”
Three Airdrie-area and two Chestermere-area farms are among the more than 150 registered to participate across Alberta. Each location will offer a different perspective on local agriculture, while also showcasing distinct demonstrations, along with food and beverage options.
Cynthia Austin – who co-owns Glengary Bison, northwest of Airdrie – said Open Farm Days provides an important opportunity for people outside the agricultural industry to learn more about farming.
“I think it broadens people’s perspectives, especially for people that do live in cities and don’t get an opportunity to get out and get exposed to what ranch and farm life is all about,” she said.
Austin and co-owner Gary Sweetnam will open their farm Aug. 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., giving 20-minute tours of the paddock so visitors can see the bison up close. Dr. Linda Many Guns, professor in the University of Lethbridge’s Department of Indigenous Studies, will also be on-hand to give presentations on the importance of bison to the indigenous community.
Your Local Ranch Inc., located north of Airdrie, will participate both days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Owner Wayne Hanson said the farm will have a wide variety of farm animals – including sheep, pigs, chickens, horses and cows – and farm equipment on-site for visitors to check out.
“We try to get as many diversified farm animals and equipment in here so that the city people can expand their horizons and their knowledge about farm animals and farm equipment,” he said.
Northwest of Crossfield, PaSu Farms will host talks both days on the importance of sheep farming and the products derived from sheep, such as meat, cheese and wool. Co-owner Sue Croquet de Rosemond said the farm’s flock will be in the pasture for visitors to look at and photograph, but noted the farm is not a petting zoo and dogs are not permitted on the property.
Croquet de Rosemond said she hopes to show a glimpse of the beauty and tranquillity of life in rural Alberta.
“A lot of people would love to have an acreage, love to live in the country, but due to circumstances – it’s an expensive lifestyle – they can’t do it,” she said. “This gives them an opportunity to enjoy that without having all the commitment of running an acreage.”
The farm can only accommodate between 40 and 60 people, Croquet de Rosemond added, and visitors are asked to RSVP ahead of time by calling 403-337-2800.
In the Chestermere area, Township 24 Brewery will offer tours of its facility, which owner Mike Gron said will demonstrate the connection between local agriculture and the brewing industry.
“Most of our beers are primarily built on Alberta barley,” he said. “[We’ll] show them the process from what comes in our back door to the pint glass.”
Elsewhere, Colleen Biggs, co-owner of TK Ranch with husband Dylan, said their farm will focus on tits environmental-sustainability and animal-welfare practices, and the farm’s commitment to endangered spaces.
“TK Ranch is located in the northern fescue grasslands,” Biggs said. “There’s only four per cent of that ecosystem left in the world. We ranch there and use cattle as a tool to harvest grass sustainably and to keep the ecosystem healthy.”
Visitors will also be able to watch cattle handling and stock dog demonstrations, Brigg said, and attend presentations centred on low-stress livestock handling.
She added Open Farm Days is an important way for people to learn more about where their food comes from.
“For a lot of consumers, the closest they get to farming is at the grocery store,” Biggs said. “For them to have an opportunity to come out and meet farm and ranch families that are on the land, that are producing food for them, is an opportunity most consumers just don’t get.”
More information about Open Farm Days – including directions to each farm – is available at albertafarmdays.ca
Doherty noted visitors should wear appropriate footwear to visit the farms, and may want to bring cash to pay for fresh products the operations might be offering.