Tuesday, 28 August 2018 08:20

Agritourism growth is being vigorously promoted

Written by  Heather Cameron
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Agritourism is visiting a farm or a ranch with the purpose of entertaining someone, educating someone, or commerce.

“Agritourism runs the gambit of being anything that is an agricultural-based business, like a corn maze, that invites people into their farm to tour,” Tannis Baker, the spokesperson for the public relations agency helping promote the Canadian Badlands, said.
Baker says that agritourism has been around almost forever and that in the older days, people would sometimes go to farms to buy their food or product swap with farms. Agritourism, Baker says, has been around as long as there have been farms, which is basically the beginning of time.
“In early times, farmers and others didn’t look at farming as tourism per se, they were actually going to the farms just to buy stuff,” Baker said. “Before, they were looking just to buy food and it was just considered agriculture, whereas the tourism component has has been more of a later development.”
The Hutterian Brethren (Hutterites) as a whole, Baker says, play a big role in local agritourism; they sell lots of vegetables and other things locally at farmer’s markets and they also do crafts and other homemade things.
“If we take a look at agritourism, it hits a couple of different markets from a local perspective,” Baker said.
“I think what's really interesting is understanding a little bit about where your food comes from and that's the education piece of it.”
Agritourism, Baker says, has been embraced differently throughout the world.
“If you take a look at the Old World countries, places like France and Italy sort of embrace that whole farming aspect of their culture a little bit differently,” Baker said. “People buying food from or selling to local farms is practiced a little bit more widely than I would say it is in North America.”
Baker says that even if people don’t buy anything from farms, agritourism is important because it’s an opportunity to understand where and how food is grown. The whole concept of agritourism provides a deeper connection to food and an opportunity for people to support local businesses.
“With agritourism, we start to look at people considering where does my food come from?” Baker said. “There's a lot of about food security and things like that. I think there is a renewed interest in understanding where food comes from and that's where things like agritourism really has an opportunity to educate,”
Open Farm Days, which took place last weekend Aug. 18-19 was an opportunity for local farms to educate people about agritourism and Baker says that 111 farms across Alberta have registered to participate in it. Baker says that Open Farm Days highlights all the farms around the province that are open for people to come and take a look around and ask questions.
“We should be paying a little bit more attention to where food comes from and to be willing to support our own farmers,” Baker said. “I think it's really important and I think agritourism is just something that can help our farmers put a little bit more cash in their pockets, as I don't think farming is necessarily an easy lifestyle.”
Besides Open Farm Days, many examples of agritourism opportunities can be found in the Canadian Badlands.
The Canadian Badlands region is in southern Alberta and is home to many different farms and agricultural wonders including 197 different varieties of potatoes,  the widely popular McCain brand of French fries; and all sugar beet sugar that is marketed in Canada.
“Agritourism is an untapped activity and a wonderful way to get to know the food on your dinner plate, the Canadian Badlands, and Alberta in general,” Baker said.
Some of the agritourism opportunities available in the Badlands include an award-winning fruit winery called Field Stone Fruit Wines in Strathmore  and the Taber Cornfest, the largest free family festival in western Canada.
“There's a big impact when you go and you see ethically treated animals living in beautiful farm scenarios,” Baker said. “People start to understand a little bit more about their food sources and things like that. Agritourism helps people see the truth about things they may see in the news about animal welfare; as a result, they become more willing to pay a little bit more money for something or to see things. Agritourism helps people recognize the extent that these farmers are going to to really do things ethically.
Baker thinks that agritourism is exciting, as a lot of people today have never even seen a farm, whereas in older days, everyone either had farms or knew farm owners. The whole concept of agritourism, Baker says, is to really educate people on what is out there.
“As food is a necessity of life, I think it's really important that everyone educate themselves on their food and what's being grown what's being produced in their areas,” Baker said. “I think it's really important when we can take a look at these amazing products that are coming out of our farms because we do have some of the best land and we also have clean water and clean air. What we're producing here in Alberta is absolutely world class. I challenge everyone to go out and take a look around and see what they can see, learn a little bit, and support a local farm.”

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