Farms welcome visitors with open arms

Manitoba’s ‘Open Farm Day’ promotes interest, understanding of agriculture

ST. NORBERT, Man. — Everyone, at least everyone in St. Norbert, Man., seems to know Louise May.

As May stood next to a gate on her farm, letting kids and adults into a pen holding dairy goats and alpacas, about every 30 seconds a new person walked up and gave her an enthusiastic hug or a bright smile.

If they weren’t approaching May, people standing 20 metres away would shout ‘Louise’, hoping to get her attention.

May is particularly well known because she maintains an open farm policy at Aurora Farm, a 160 acre operation, where she raises dairy goats and alpacas, boards horses, grows vegetables and makes 12,000 bars of goat milk soap annually.

Visitors and the curious can stop by the farm on Saturdays and Sundays to play with the goats, feed carrots to the horses and stare at the alpacas.

That policy is a big reason why May was one of 37 farmers who participated in Manitoba’s sixth annual Open Farm Day Sept. 20.

“(We’ve) brought a lot of people already to this farm. So people do connect with the farm because of the animals and all the products we make,” said May, as she opened the gate to let another group into the goat and alpaca pen. May said she keeps Aurora Farm open because a connection to a farm was a memorable part of her childhood.

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“For me, it was a really important thing to have growing up…. My uncle had a farm (near Vita, Man.). But it was our ‘family farm.’ So we went on Sundays or we went on special holidays.”

Many Manitobans must crave that connection because 75 to 100 cars were parked on the gravel road that runs past Aurora Farm. On the farm, five year olds played on a pyramid of square bales, parents and kids chased after goats and others stood in line 20 minutes for a ride on a horse.

May admitted it was a bit difficult managing the large crowd, but it was satisfying.

“When we get a big influx of people, like this, it feels good that what we’re doing is actually supported by the community,” she said as another person approached and gave her a hug.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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