If you’ve ever wanted to walk in a mile in a farmer’s boots, you’re in luck – Alberta Open Farm Days is back Aug. 18 and 19. This annual event allows county residents and other curious folk the chance to peek into what farmers do.
Many farmers, like Bernie Pagenkopf, see a growing dissonance between what people eat from the grocery store and the knowledge of where it comes from. Pagenkopf’s Uncle Bernie’s All Natural Meats is one local farm that will be opening its arms to the public for the event.
“People – at least, the city people – don’t have a connection to the farm anymore,” he said. “Years ago, everybody had an uncle or aunt, or somebody, that owned and ran a farm, and they could visit the farm. Nowadays, there’s a bigger gap – there’s no relationship, anymore. So, we’re giving people the opportunity to come and visit the farm, have the experience and see what we’re doing.”
Pagenkopf said he sees his farm as a bit of a novelty these days, because he and his wife raise elk and bison. Not many people see elk or bison around anymore, he said, so he wants to let people get more familiar with the animals, as well as how they handle and look after their livestock.
Wayne and Rhonda Hanson of Your Local Ranch also want to offer visitors a glimpse into how they raise their cattle – some of which is used by local restaurants like Hayloft in Airdrie and the Damit Amit food truck.
The farm has been in the family since 1909, and they’re nearing the stage where they control the entire operation from top to bottom, Wayne Hanson said – from the day their cattle are born right through to the retail sales of their beef.
During the two-day event, Hanson said the ranch will be packed with things for visitors to see, like a tractor-drawn wagon ride; hay rides; horse, sheep, mini-horse and mini-donkey viewing; and their bee keep. Kids can try their hand at roping a dummy and can handle chickens in the pen, as well.
While there will certainly be a lot to do, Hanson said he has a similar goal to Pagenkopf.
“It takes one generation removed to lose the touch of what happens on a ranch or a farm,” he said. “I think it’s important for people to understand what we do, why we do it, how it’s done, how safe it is, and how much care is put into it.”
Both the Pagenkopf and Hanson farms are family farms, operated by husband-and-wife teams – and the kids get involved, too. Pagenkopf said his children are sure to help in the fields and the farmers’ markets, talking to people and selling their meat.
“We just kind of open our farm completely up for people to see what we have, what we do,” Hanson said.
“I hope, when they leave the farm, that everything that they wondered and every question they had would be answered.”
Uncle Bernie’s All Natural Meats will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 19. Your Local Ranch will be running both days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. As these are farms, closed-toe shoes are recommended, Rhonda Hanson added. Accessible parking will be reserved near the entrance to Your Local Ranch.
Locations and directions can be found at albertafarmdays.ca