ROCKY VIEW— Opening up their gates to the general public, local farmers and producers across the province will be participating in Open Farms Days on Saturday (Aug. 14) and Sunday (Aug. 15).
Open Farm Days market coordinator Nicola Doherty said the 2021 Open Farm Days marks the return to an event that will be more recognizable for guests.
“It’s looking more like 2019. We’re kind of getting a little bit back to pre-pandemic stuff,” Doherty said.
The event first launched in 2013 as a way to connect Albertans with local producers and farmers. Since its inception, it has grown exponentially, while continuing to celebrate the province's agricultural sector.
This year guests will be required to register to visit farms in advance help hosts estimate how many people will be stopping by for a visit.
“These are their farms … They’re not usually run as an event so it really does help them plan for the event,” Doherty said.
To make the most of Open Farm Days, Doherty recommends exploring farms you would be interested in visiting in advance online and planning the day around the time spent at the facility and how long of a drive it is between different farms.
“Plan around what’s really important for you to see and what you would really like to see and then go from there,” Doherty said.
Open Farm Days serves as a great opportunity for people unfamiliar with farm and rural life, curious about food production in Alberta or those looking for a free fun family activity to engage in agritourism. She added the day is an educational experience allowing producers and consumers to connect in the farmyard.
“It gets you out to rural communities that you may not have ever gone out to before and discover really great towns and really great people,” Doherty said.
For those participating in Open Farm Days, Doherty said, to keep in mind many farms will have food to eat or take home so she suggests bringing cash to purchase treats and a cooler for safe storage of fresh products.
When visiting a farm, it is also important to wear appropriate shoes and have clothes appropriate for the weather. She added any family pets should also stay at home as participating facilities are working farms and pets have the potential to cause conflict.
“This is not the place for fashion. Go, have fun and be prepared that you are going to be on a farm so you don’t want to be wearing your nicest shoes,” Doherty said.
Dan Molyneux of Fallentimber Meadery near Water Valley said Open Farm Days serves as a great way to showcase the third-generation farm while celebrating and sharing knowledge on the process of fermentation.
The Meadery will feature mead tastings for $10 on Saturday and Sunday along with free tours of the facility from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Meadery is located near the junction of Twp Road 302 and Twp Road 301a across the river.
“We feel that it's important to introduce people or educate people about what's going on at the farm,” Molyneux said. “We basically are going to take you through the entire process. From honey production, we’re going to teach you about bees. Once we have our raw honey source, we’re going to teach you about the fermentation process of honey to make mead.”
Fallentimber has participated in Open Farm Days for the past five years, taking a break in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The weekend is especially fun because it brings new faces to the farm that spans a broad range of guests looking to explore Alberta and learn more about where their food comes from.
For those visiting Fallentimber Meadery, Molyneux recommends taking their time while visiting the facility.
“Don’t rush it there’s a lot of information to take in,” Molyneux said. “Make sure to make the most of it by giving yourself ample time to take it all in.”
Gary Sweetnam’s ranch Glengary Bison will be welcoming guests into the paddock from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The ranch is located near Madden at 24203 Twp Road 280, Rocky View County.
“It gives people an outdoor experience of what we do,” Sweetnam said.
During Open Farm Days a First Nations representative will be on hand to speak to the importance of bison outside an authentic tipi, bison hair and colouring items will be available for children and a barbecue of bison smokies, water and pop will also be available to purchase at the ranch's store.
Sweetnam and Cynthia Austin have been running Glengary Bison for 25 years and see Open Farm Days as a way to connect to the general public while showcasing the bison who call the ranch home.
It is an especially exciting time to visit the ranch, Sweetnam said, as the bison are at the tail end of their calving season.
“We have April babies there right up to babies that were born right last night,” Sweetnam said. “I’ve got some friendly ones that come right up to get their picture taken.”
Glengary Bison has been participating in Open Farm Days for three or four years. During the event, they have seen more than 500 people coming and going from the ranch in a single day.
One of the goals at Glengary Bison is helping demystify where food comes from— This includes showcasing the butchery shop on site that can display the different meats available and how the other parts of the animal are used that cannot be consumed by humans.
“They can see that these animals are naturally raised on just grasses … Nothings artificial there’s no filler,” Sweetnam said.
Other farms participating in the Rocky View Area include Long Grass Studio and Workshop and Water Valley Hops. For more information visit albertaopenfarmdays.ca.