Open Farm Days

Brenda Hanson, Tourism Development Officer, with Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation.

Farms open to urban visitors

    In the past, most people knew how their food arrived at their table by direct experience with farming. Urban families would visit the grandparent’s or uncle and aunt’s farm and see first-hand how  their food was grown and where it came from; a shock to some to realize that  milk, eggs and butter do not originate from Safeway. Today, fewer than three out of every 100 Albertans are involved in farming. As a result, a large percentage of our population is a few generations removed from agriculture and the agri-food industry. The ‘industrial’ type of farm operations we see today are so much bigger it limits the opportunity for youth of today to experience first-hand how food is produced.
    Today, the rural landscape is a graveyard of decaying buildings and rusting equipment. Communities as we once knew them have pretty much vanished.  It’s sad to see the churches and schools, once the hub of rural communities, become the victims of time and neglect and deteriorating or demolished. Most of the early settlers have passed away while their children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren have chosen to live in urban centres. 
Program to connect urban and rural.
    Brenda Hanson, Tourism Development Officer, with Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation attended the November 25th Wetaskiwin and District Chamber of  Commerce meeting to explain a program that is attempting to link agricultural producers with consumers; rural and urban.
    “Alberta Open Farm Days is about farmers and ranchers inviting their urban and rural neighbours to stop in for a visit to share stories, see demonstrations, and learn more about the farmers who grow their food.  In 2013 we had 41 registered farms including berry farms, mixed farms, wineries, ranches and petting zoos. There were also 11 culinary events around the province including farmer’s market tours, field dinners, pig roasts and wine tastings. Admission to the farms was free but farmers did charge fees for some activities and sold product. Visitors spent nearly $20,000 on farms across the province on August 25th.”
Beginning of Open Farm Days
“We brought together various partners that brought something unique and important to the table. We formed a steering committee made up of representatives from each of the partners to launch the inaugural Open Farm Days.” The steering committee was comprised of the following partners: 
• Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation (ATPR)
• Agriculture for Life (Ag for Life)
• Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD)
• Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies (AAAS)
• Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance (ACTA)
• Travel Alberta
    The committee identified several objectives they wanted to see achieved during Open Farm Days: 
• A backstage pass to meet your farmer
• A province wide two day event that creates opportunities for farmers to open their doors and share their story 
• An opportunity to learn more about farm products, see demonstrations, take walking tours and ask questions about farm life 
• A chance to buy direct from the farmer and support the local economy
• A great way to enjoy some recreational and educational activities with your family.     
• Opportunity to taste/sample local products
    Hanson reported to Chamber members that  the Open Farm Days project began a process of achieving a better knowledge of the agri-food industry:  
• To increase the awareness of ag-tourism operations throughout the province. 
• To encourage consumer awareness, direct farm marketing and ag-tourism as a business.
• To give tourists the opportunity to meet the farmer and understand where their food and products come from.
• To grow the ag-tourism and local food industries.
• To increase tourism visits and revenues 
    Open Farm Days will be a two day, weekend event held on August 23rd and 24th, 2014. Recruitment of host farms will commence in January 2014.
Website: www.albertafarmdays.com

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