Families encouraged to check out Alberta Open Farm Days

For families, couples or individuals looking for something to do this weekend, there is a great opportunity

FARM FRESH - Barbara Wolfger and Anna Zuliani pick out a free-range chicken from the Klein farm stand recently at the Lacombe Farmers’ Market.

FARM FRESH - Barbara Wolfger and Anna Zuliani pick out a free-range chicken from the Klein farm stand recently at the Lacombe Farmers’ Market.

For families, couples or individuals looking for something to do this weekend, there is a great opportunity to take in some local agriculture.

Alberta Open Farm Days is a first time event, but Richard Starke, minister of tourism and recreation for Alberta, said he hopes to see it become an annual event.

“It’s just a great opportunity for Albertans to go out to participating farms for a visit and to have a look at essentially where our food comes from,” said Starke.

Saturday’s focus is in cooperation with some of the best chefs in the area demonstrating things that can be done with the food being produced here in Alberta.

Starke said the Ellis Bird Farm in the Lacombe area will be supporting local growers through their locally inspired menu from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. “Reservations are recommended for sure for Saturday’s events as they fill up fast.”

Also taking part on Saturday is Billyco Junction Limited hosting wine tastings from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Starke said for that one to make sure you have a designated driver.

“There are culinary events right across the province – everything from the huckleberry festival to Ukrainian foods being served.”

On Sunday the 25th, however, the idea is more of a farm open house. There are 40 producers province-wide opening their farms to visitors and Starke said the range of events is extraordinary. “We have cattle and bison ranches, petting zoos, wineries and meateries, dairies, not just cattle but sheep and goat dairies too.”

The diversity of agricultural production in Alberta is amazing according to Starke and the plan with Alberta Open Farm Days is to highlight that.

“We want to let people know it’s a great way to spend an afternoon. Our society has become so urbanized and fewer people have direct connections to farms. It’s important people get out and see truly where their food is coming from.”

He added that many of the producers do sell their product right on their farms, but that some of it is also available locally in stores as well.

“Our producers are very skilled and passionate and they produce something to be proud of and that boasts excellence.”

Starke recommends that people visit the web site and see what is closest to them in order to plan a day out where they can maybe visit two or three different farms showcasing diverse products. Other provinces have been hosting open farm days since 2001 with much success, and Starke said he is excited for the potential here in Alberta. “We are starting out with just 40 which I think is a great number, but in coming years I think we will see that number grow.”

He said those farms that have gotten involved were happy to do so and he said most producers are more than anxious to show off what they do because they’re so proud of the product that they work so hard for. “This gives people a specific day that they know they’re welcome to go to the farms, look at the animals or the crops and find out more information from the producers regarding the challenges and their achievements.”

Starke referred to the 100 mile diet where more and more people are trying to eat food that they can account for its origins within a local range.

“People eating this way want to know that there is a variety of product available locally for consumption and they want to know that there is quality in these products too.”

He added that the less a product travels the better it is not only for the environment but also for consumers.

“It’s more fresh because it’s closer to the source. Anyone who cooks with it will say if you can work with local and fresh foods it just tastes better.”

He said he would encourage people to visit the web site and have a look at the participating farms in their areas and make a day trip and take their children too so they can see where their food comes from as well.

Visit www.albertafarmdays.com.

kpalardy@reddeerexpress.com

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