ROCKY VIEW COUNTY— Connecting consumers with producers and celebrating the rich agricultural history of the province, Alberta Open Farm Days offers a unique opportunity to explore rural life.
Providence Lane Homestead operator Tara Klager will be opening her barn doors for the first time at this year's event. The farm is home to six alpacas and 16 sheep.
“We’ll be showing how we turn what was on the back of this sheep into something you could wear,” Klager said with a grin.
The homestead will be opening its gates at 9 a.m. on Aug. 15 and maps will be provided of different activities to participate in. The goal, Klager explained, is to connect visitors with a range of different experiences while exploring the history of the area.
There will be limited contact with the animals based on the size of crowds and no one will be allowed in pens to ensure biosecurity. However, visitors will be able to take a tour of the farm and engage in limited contact with the animals.
“We have a couple of what I call our ambassadors and those ones [sheep] we will bring out as we can and allow people to engage with them,” Klager said with a laugh. “We have two in particular who are extremely social.”
Alberta Open Farm Days is an exciting opportunity for visitors because they will be able to learn more about animals that produce fibre, she said. This will include meeting the animals and a demonstration using a loom and spinning wheel.
“We want to give people opportunities to find community,” Klager said.
People have become so disconnected from the agricultural experience in the province, Klager said, and she hopes a visit to Providence Lane will help people better understand and celebrate the rural way of life during Open Farm Days.
During the event Klager and her husband Bob will be hosting a question and answer session talking about what they have learned over the five years they have owned Providence Lane Homestead.
She added Providence Lane has also partnered with the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary to host Indigenous games, talks and other activities for visitors during Alberta Open Farm Days.
“We’re hoping that a friend of ours who is an Elder with Siksika will be here and able to talk to folks and tell them a little bit about what the culture was like before settlers came here ... A little bit about how the people lived on the land and what the land was like and the stories that have been passed down through generations for them and really hopefully connecting our visitors to the history of this land.”
During the event Red Barn Books will be on hand providing storytime for kids with their latest book Howdy, I’m John Ware that celebrates the legendary cowboy and his lasting legacy in the province.
“He was one of the very first black homesteaders here in Alberta,” Klager said.
She noted Open Farm Days will be a COVID-19 friendly event and many measures have been put in place to ensure people can visit safely.
At Providence Lane, no more than 45 people will be at the farm at a time and all activities will be based around social distancing and limited touch objects.
Down the road from Providence Lane, Water Valley Hops will be hosting hop yard tours and hop sensory tests on Saturday (Aug. 15), said owner Nick Pereversoff
It is his first time participating in Open Farms Days, he said, explaining how Alberta Open Farm Days serves as the perfect opportunity to showcase the art of growing hops— An important aspect of brewing that is not a common sight in this area of Alberta.
“There isn’t really a huge industry for hops yet but there is a really big craft brewing industry."
He added that alongside the hops the facility also grows other herbs for brewing and distilling including coriander, dill and mint.
Water Valley Hops home-grown ingredients are used by a couple of breweries in the province and Confluence Distilling and Fallentimber Meadery use his herbs for spirits.
Pereversoff added that he is part of the Alberta Hop Producers association and other hop farms are participating in the event as well to raise the profile of producers during Open Farms Days.
“We’re hoping to raise the profile of different styles of beer,” Pereversoff said. He explained they will be talking about fresh hop beer, also known as wet hop, where a beer is made using fresh hops. This type of beer can only be brewed in regions where hops are grown and can be thrown in fresh with no processing.
“You get a nice fall harvest type of beer,” Pereversoff said. “We’re trying to open people’s eyes to this style of beer that hasn’t really existed in Alberta yet.”
During the sensory tests, guests will have the opportunity to participate in a hop rub where the cones are broken apart and they can pick out distinct flavours and aromas.
“You can get a good touch and feel, and smell, on how the ingredients create an aroma in beer and spirits,” Pereversoff said.
His ultimate goal is to have people walk away from Open Farm Days with a deeper appreciation of how beer gets from the farm to the table in Alberta.
Pereversoff said 10 guests will be able to visit at a time for about an hour.
Alberta Open Farms Day market coordinator Nicola Doherty said this year will be a unique experience for guests, noting that the event will be slightly smaller than 2019’s record-breaking participation of more than 150 family farms.
To adhere to COVID-19 public health protocols farms will be allowed a maximum of 100 people, including staff and volunteers, at a time. To ensure this number is upheld people will be able to sign up for a time slot to visit. Social distancing and good hygiene are encouraged, she said, adding that at the majority of farms wearing a mask is optional.
“The farms have worked really hard this year to make sure that everything is following the guidelines from AHS [Alberta Health Services] and the government,” Doherty said. “The farms have been really creative in coming up with different ways people can interact and learn about farming in Alberta while keeping safe."
Open Farms Day offers a unique opportunity for people to explore a farm and learn how essential products are produced in Alberta.
“It’s such a cool experience to be able to go onto a farm and see what’s really going on behind the sense and see how food is grown,” Doherty said.
For those participating in Open Farm Days for the first time, Doherty said, she recommends avoiding heels and opened toed shoes. Doherty added family pets need to stay at home. Guests can also bring cash to purchase any products that pique a guest's interest and a cooler to keep food purchased cold.
Alberta Open Farm Days plays an important roll in reconnecting people with farmers she said explaining that there is a rich history of farming in Alberta.
“There’s a real movement right now over the last couple of years about local food. People are more interested in learning about the local food and where it comes from,” Doherty said.
To visit arrange a visit to a site during Alberta Open Farm Days visit albertafarmdays.ca/.