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Get to know your local farmer: Edmonton Valley Zoo exhibit offers agricultural connection

Edmonton Valley Zoo initiative aims to educate people about where their food comes from
WATCH ABOVE: Morgan Black tells us about an initiative at the Edmonton Valley Zoo aimed at educating people about where their food comes from.

The Edmonton Valley Zoo welcomes you to get to know all species, including ones that can be found in Alberta.

Juliana pigs, Speckle Park cattle and baby chicks are all on display at the Urban Farm.

The exhibit, which opened last summer, is Phase 1 of “Nature’s Wild Backyard,” the Zoo’s take on modern-day farming.

READ MORE: Edmonton Valley Zoo working to save endangered frogs in British Columbia

“The Urban Farm is the part of the Edmonton Valley Zoo where we educate people about all of the animals that we share the planet with and that are part of our rich agricultural history,” explained Valley Zoo Development Society’s Tammy Wiebe.

“You would be amazed how many children have never seen a chicken or a pig and don’t understand where their food comes from. A lot of people are just in awe.”

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That also means local food producers can share their reality with visitors who may never have been to a farm.

“We realized there was quite a disconnect between city life and farm life and where your food comes from,” said chicken farmer Tara de Vries. “It doesn’t just show up in a grocery store. There’s a lot of work put behind it when it comes to the care of the animals.”

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de Vries is a broiler farmer, which means her chickens are bred and raised specifically for meat production.

“It’s an amazing career — 20 years in the industry now. I love the animals.”

Watch below: Sheena Gross and Amanda Simoneau with the Edmonton Valley Zoo share details on the Nature’s Wild Backyard, which is home to both the Red Panda Habitat and Urban Farm area that has pigs, ponies, cows, sheep, rabbits, cats, bees and chickens and goats – one of which they brought with them.

Edmonton Valley Zoo urban farm and red panda area
Edmonton Valley Zoo urban farm and red panda area

The exhibit also aims to connect Albertans with the people behind their produce.

“All Alberta dairy farms and chicken farms are family-owned. They are smaller operations — what we see on TV tends to be more international or U.S.,” Wiebe said.

“It was important for us to partner with some of the Alberta agricultural industries so that they could talk about their sustainability efforts and how they treat those animals, and then kids could get to know those animals the same way they get to know red pandas, or tigers.

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Darren de Vries is a chicken farmer as well as the designer of the chicken exhibit at the Urban Farm.

“So if you go to a farm, it’s very similar to what you see here. There’s bedding, access to water and feed and there’s room for them to move around.

“It’s about knowing everyone learns in different ways. If we want to really relate to the animals we share this planet with, we need to relate to the space they live in as well.”

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Plans are already in place for Phase 2 of Nature’s Wild Backyard, pending a green light from city council.