Alberta farmers are opening their barn doors to help residents get a better understanding of daily life on a farm.
Alberta Open Farm Days sees farmers and ranchers from across the province invite urban and rural neighbours to check out the essential work they provide to surrounding communities and beyond.
Providence Lane Homestead’s Tara Klager is participating in the event for the first time.
The Cochrane permaculture farm (derived from the term “permanent agriculture”) is focused on building biodiversity and a resilient environment.
“We just want to make our little patch better than we found it. Instead of focusing on cows or grain, we are growing fibre,” Klager said. “We have two animals that do that — heritage breed sheep and alpacas. Every year they are sheared and we sell that fibre.”
Due to COVID-19 health restrictions, a limited number of people are allowed on a farm at one time. There will also be other hygiene practices in place like sanitizer and physical distancing.
“We’re learning as we go,” Klager said. “We had set a goal for our homestead in 2019 we would participate. But unfortunately COVID-19 also happened. It has, without a doubt, been the number one issue on the farm.”
Rainy weather has also weighed heavily on Alberta farms.
“We don’t produce our own hay, oats or barley for the feed,” Klager said. “We have wonderful community support. If they have a bad harvest, I have challenges. Last night, my eyes popped open and all I could think of is the guys who still have their wheat out… wondering if the barley will still be standing after the storm.”
More than 80 farms, ranches and ag-tourism operators aim to share local stories, see on-farm demonstrations and purchase locally grown and produced products during the event.
“I find that people are always surprised at the amazing array of activities that can happen on the farm,” said Tam Anderson of Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm. “When you support a local farm, that multiplication in an economic development perspective is amazing.”
Anderson said Open Farm Days is Prairie Gardens’ “relaunch” during COVID-19.
“We’re finding such interest in farming right now. People really care. They care about eating healthy, learning what grows in Alberta,” Anderson said. “You also get to explore some places you would never have access to otherwise. It’s just such a unique experience.”
Klager emphasized the farming community is connected to the whole province.
“Big or small. We are in it together,” Klager said.
“I feel so strongly for our larger scale farmers. These people are so important to Alberta. They are so important to me. When there’s a chance to support them, I absolutely want to do that.”
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She said she hopes Albertans will take that chance too.
“When they step through that gate, I want them to feel like they’ve left whatever is nagging them behind. I want them to be fully present experiencing this,” Klager said.
Open Farm Days runs Aug. 15 and 16. Albertans can book a farm tour here.