More farms, ranches sought for Open Farm Days

This year will be the sixth Open Farm Days event in Alberta, and public participation grew from 17,800 visitors in 2016 to 20,000 last year

Agricultural groups often talk about the widening gap between urban and rural people and public misunderstandings about how food gets from field and pasture to table and plate.

Alberta farmers and ranchers can do something about that gap. They can open their properties to the public during Open Farm Days, this year scheduled Aug. 18-19.

“It would be great to have more farms involved because there’s such diversity in farming, not to mention the ag tourism industry,” said Tim Carson, chief executive officer of the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies.

“I think the more opportunity people have to go out and find out what’s happening in their local area, or at least being able to explore some things that they didn’t know, that’s just a great thing.”

This year will be the sixth Open Farm Days event in the province and public participation has been growing steadily. In 2017, 20,000 visits to 101 host farms were recorded, up from 17,800 in 2016. Though no admission fee is charged at participating farms, there was $146,000 in sales last year for on-farm goods.

Carson said that reflects an opportunity to sell products but the benefit of educating visitors about agriculture is the bigger picture.

“How do we get the food that we have in this province? How do we grow that? Who grows it and what is the process involved? Most folks are just driving up and down the No. 2 highway going, ‘I wonder what that is.’ ”

Carson said even the chance to see large farm equipment up close, perhaps even climb into it, can be a major eye-opener for farm visitors. Seeing livestock up close and learning how animals are managed might be another.

“I think that’s a big piece of what should be in the thought process for some of these farms. What they take for granted is completely foreign to most people now,” he said.

There is no cost for farms to register and liability insurance for all participants is provided, also at no charge to participating farms.

Carson said the event sponsors, which include the AAAS, Alberta Agriculture, Alberta Culture and Tourism and Travel Alberta, are hoping for a 20 percent increase in the number of farms that open their doors to visitors this year.

A commitment is needed by May 31.

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