Alberta Open Farm Days
For many city slickers, a visit to a working farm isn’t even on their radar. The closest thing to “connecting” with the food they eat takes place in the aisles of the supermarket; an experience that doesn’t allow for an adequate understanding or appreciation for how the agricultural world really works.
Alberta Open Farm Days – an annual late summer event that celebrates agriculture in the province – provides Albertans a backstage pass to visit many of the farms and ranches that are peppered throughout the province. It’s an opportunity to witness firsthand the behind-the-scenes workings of an industry we are all connected to. At its roots, pun intended, this is an industry that makes life possible!
Thanks to the maps provided on the Alberta Open Farm Days website, albertafarmdays.com, as well as a comprehensive list of participating farms and suggested itineraries, finding your way to the many different farms and markets participating in the event is easy to do. From carrot farms, fruit wineries, elk and bison ranches, to honey farms, there is something for everyone. The weekend includes a number of culinary events as well. For example, in 2015 Rootstock, an under-the-tent party that
included live music, an incredible dinner prepared with farmfresh ingredients, and a farmer’s market, proved a huge success. Alberta Open Farm Days will take place on the August 20 & 21st weekend in 2016.
The Chinook Honey Company, one of the stops I enjoyed with my family last year, was one of many highlights. They provided a hands-on – or, better put, hands-in – honey tasting experience that capped off an interesting tutorial on those amazing bees. Some of the cool facts we learned? Honey bees have five eyes. Edible honey was found in the 2,000 year-old tomb of King Tut. And honey, if it’s in a sealed container, lasts forever. Conveniently, the Chinook Arch Meadery is located on the same property and,
if memory serves me correctly, I have yet to turn down a free mead tasting. Mead, which is sometimes called “honey wine,” is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world. It was quite popular during medieval times and, given the number people at the tasting bar, remains quite popular.
Poplar Bluff Organics, which is the Alberta’s largest organic carrot producer, was another highlight. We were able to sample many delicious carrots right out of the ground after they were given a quick wash in the buckets. (Eating carrots with a bit of dirt on them won’t kill you, it will make you stronger!)
We visited four farms: Poplar Bluff Organics, near Carseland; Seeds to Greens, just 5 km southeast of Calgary; Bumbleberry Orchards & Field Stone Fruit Winery, near Strathmore; and the Chinook Honey Company & Chinook Arch Meadery, near Okotoks. All were friendly, welcoming, unpretentious places where we were entertained and educated on the many aspects of their unique operations.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who underestimate the profound importance agriculture plays in their daily lives. With a little time researching – and bumping along the backroads – learning a bit more about this vital community and industry can be a fun and greatly rewarding experience.
By: Andrew Penner