Dozens of Central Alberta farms are throwing open their doors to the public this weekend for the 10th annual Alberta Open Farm Days on Aug. 13 and 14.
And the agricultural experience is being interpreted widely.
This year, Blindman Brewing of Lacombe and Troubled Monk Brewery in Red Deer will be joining Custom Woollen Mills in Carstairs, Highland Berries near Innisfail, Hamingja Heritage Farm and Nature Preserve near Leslieville and a bevy of other producers on the tour. (For a full listing, visit albertaopenfarmdays.ca).
The 2022 farm tour line-up is nearly back to what it was before the pandemic — with 120 participants from across the province, compared to 150 in 2019, said Tim Carson, CEO of Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies, the organizer of the two-day event.
“We have everything from alpacas to yaks, and all kinds of agriculture in between,” said Carson. People can buy fresh farm eggs and local honey, wheat, vegetables, baking and steak — “you name it.”
Susan and Glen Manyluk, of Holmehus Antiques and Farm With the Good Food, west of Red Deer, are participating in the tour again after starting out with the first Open Farm Days a decade ago.
“I think this helps educate people about how unique farming really is,” said Susan. “It used to be that everybody had a relative who farmed and they could visit them” to learn about food production, “but not anymore. Farming has become more of a business than a family environment.”
Alberta Open Farm Days is intent on turning the clock back to allow people to once again go out and see where their food comes from and meet the people who produce it, she added.
The event highlights farming diversity — maybe giving people some ideas of how to earn a living without moving to the city, said Alida Prins, who co-owns Gull Lake Honey, another Open Farms Days participant.
“I grew up in the city, so was always interested and curious about what life would be like on a farm.” After marrying a farm boy, Prins and her husband were trying to dream up ways to continue living in the country while generating an income.
“We wanted to do something in agriculture,” she recalled, that would not require expensive land or equipment purchases. The couple came up with taking over a local apiary business from a retiring beekeeper.
With so many diverse rural businesses featured in Alberta Open Farm Days, Prins believes other young people could also pick up some inspiration. “I like to tell our story because we went from doing nothing, with no idea, to now we are in our fifth season,” she said.
This year’s Alberta Open Farm Days’ motto is “It takes a Hive,” indicating farming is an integrated community.
An innovative new recipe developed by honey and sugar beet farmers is “honey floss,” a cotton candy-like substance made from both products. Some farms o the tour will be offering candy floss as a sweet snack, or with recipes to turn it into cocktails.
Tannis Baker, a food and tourism strategist, said “incubator projects” like this are launched to inspire producers to come up with their own new products. She noted a Lac la Biche farmer previously created honey lollipops, which are still being sold at area markets, stores and restaurants.