Farms all across Alberta are preparing to open their doors for Alberta Open Farm Days, which are taking place August 14th and 15th.
While in many cases, extensive extra work is required to prepare for these guests, the opportunity far outweighs the cost.
“It’s about 15 people providing six to eight hours during the open farm day itself. And another five to six people probably put in 40 to 50 hours of organizational time to get the exhibits and the information available to the public in a manner that the public can understand,” said Linda Bingeman, a member of the Big Country Agricultural Society, one of Alberta Open Farm Days’ many hosts. The Society has been participating in Open Farm Days for eight years.
“It’s very rewarding in that we get to see people who don't actually have a chance to interact with animals, or any type of food production, or see people who have retired from farming get to come back and experience the things that they did as young adults It's really special to watch the kids milk a cow and lead sheep around, then get to feel the animals and interact with them, so that they know that these animals are happy, they're not being abused, and yet they can still provide us with food,” said Bingeman.
One of the primary benefits of being a host for the Alberta Open Farm Days is the chance to be part of agricultural education and dispel some myths about farming practices and sustainability, said Lars Hirch, farmer and owner of Pivot Spirits Distillery, a first-time host this year.
“As a farmer over the years, I've haven't liked a lot of the misinformation that some of the green groups have put out there about farming practices, like the ways they can save the environment, for example, by not eating beef,” said Hirch. “I just like to connect with people and show them good things that are happening on farms. For example, I have a lot of energy efficient equipment, I use sustainable farming and distilling practices. I've got solar panels on the distillery which powers all my equipment and I feed the stamp mash back to my cows.”
“We really want to showcase the importance of irrigated agriculture. And all the water I found within the eastern Irrigation District comes from the Bassano Dam. So it's really to highlight the importance of irrigated agriculture and the importance of water in the area,” said Brandi Doerksen, land administrator for the Eastern Irrigation District (EID). The EID is offering tours of the Bassano Dam during the Open Farm Day Weekend, for their third year of hosting. “Doing this really showcases the importance of irrigation within southern Alberta and the importance of water within the area. Without water southern Alberta would basically be a desert.”
Alongside education, it is a foot in the door for those looking to start offering tours on their farms as a part of their regular business.
“I’d already decided to include a farm tour component to my distillery tour and so open farm days, signing up for that kind of gave me a deadline time to get it all done by,” said Hirch. “I like to do the open farm days and just show people the farming practices and just going and how something unique can be made right here in irrigation country, that you don't have to travel to foothills or the coast where all the wineries and distilleries are typically located. I plan on continuing to do tours, but after Open Farm Days, they won’t be free.”