Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Verlyn Olson, and Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation, Richard Starke, were at the Breevliet Ltd. dairy farm on May 2nd, 2014 to illustrate their support of the agriculture and agri-tourism industries. Each of the Ministers took his turn at preparing cows for milking, attaching the milking machines and hitting the power button to begin the milking process.
The Ministers were launching the second annual Alberta Open Farm Days that run August 23rd and 24th, 2014. Open Farm days is endeavoring to link agricultural producers with consumers by offering farm-to-table culinary events on the Saturday and free open houses hosted by farms throughout the province on Sunday.
Minister Olson commented, “Alberta has some of the best and innovative producers and agriculture-based businesses in the world. Open Farm Days is a tremendous opportunity for our agriculture community to showcase the hard work they do to ensure safe and delicious food gets delivered from the farm gate to the dinner plate every day.” Farm Days provides opportunities for both rural and urban Albertans to see first-hand, how their food is grown and where it came from. And it is quite a shock to some when they learn milk, eggs and butter do not originate at Safeway.
In the past, most people knew how their food arrived at their table by direct experience with farming during visits to their grandparent’s or uncle and aunt’s farm. 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 to experience first-hand, how food is produced.
Minister Starke is very supportive of the program. “Rural Alberta has lots of great stories to tell and being a host farm for Open Farm Days is a great way to tell it. Open Farm Days is an ag-tourism event that demonstrates one way rural Alberta can grow and benefit from tourism in their communities.”
Alberta Open Farm Days is all about having farmers and ranchers invite their urban and rural neighbours to stop in for a visit, share stories, see demonstrations and learn more about the farmers who grow their food. In 2013, there were 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 products they were selling. Visitors spent nearly $20,000 on farms across the province during the event.
Open Farm Days is led by Agriculture for Life in partnership with Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Alberta Association of Agriculture Societies, Travel Alberta and Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance. “It is a backstage pass to meet the farmer, experience Ag-tourism in Alberta and taste local foods direct from the producer.”