The weekend allowed for education and marketing, farmers said
By Diego Flammini
With Alberta Open Farm Days still fresh in the mind of those producers who participated, Farms.com connected with two of them to discuss their experiences over the weekend.
More than 100 Alberta farms opened their gates to visitors over the weekend, which also marked the 10th anniversary of Alberta’s first Open Farm Days event.
Drew Pasay was among the farmers participating in the event for the first time.
“It went spectacularly,” she told Farms.com. “We’re definitely going to do it again next year.”
Her and her husband, Kenleigh, own and operate Bentgrove Farm in Redwater, Alta.
The farmers primarily raise grass fed and finished beef and lamb, but they also raise hens, broilers, chickens and pigs.
The producers focused on education while welcoming visitors Saturday.
“We brought two sheep out to show the difference between a hair breed sheep and a wool breed sheep, and we had all of our haying equipment on display,” she said. “And we explained to people that we bring in our chickens at 22 weeks and bring in a new batch of chickens in a year. We wanted people to understand that this is our business, and they were really receptive to that.”
After welcoming about 150 visitors on Saturday, mostly from the city, the Open Farm Days experience proved positive for Pasay.
Having the opportunity to teach people about food production is something farmers shouldn’t take for granted, she said.
“We hear a lot about how people, especially kids, don’t know where their food comes from,” she said. “So, for us to be able to show them where it comes from, and to have people come out to the farm and ask really good questions and be open to learning new things, it’s a really rewarding and validating experience.”
Another farm taking part in Open Farm Days for the first time in 2022 was Pierogerie Farm in Sherwood Park, Alta.
“It was fantastic,” Wade Schneider told Farms.com. “We had nothing but great people who came to visit with an open mind.”
Schneider and his wife, Agnes, grow the potatoes, onions and cabbage they use to make homemade pierogies for their customers. They also grow tomatoes they turn into tomato paste for cabbage rolls.
Almost 200 people visited the farm on Saturday, where they learned about how crops are grown and sampled some of the food made on site.
This included discussions about the production practices on the certified organic farm, regenerative agriculture and how the farmers make their own compost.
“A lot of people didn’t know our story, what we did or that we even existed,” Schneider said. “The farm is the smaller piece of what we do compared to our pierogi business. When people realized we grow our own ingredients, it really captured their attention because it’s the epitome of farm to table. It doesn’t get more local than that.”
In addition to the education component, the farmers found Open Farm Days to be a successful marketing opportunity.
Between registered visitors and drop-in traffic, the farm’s store was busy with customers.
“We had a lot of exposure and almost everyone who visited the shop bought our products,” Schneider said. “Those customers now have a connection to our farm which we hope they’ll remember.”
Schneider encourages other farmers to think about participating in Open Farm Days.
“If you’re doing something different at your farm or you’ve got products to sell, it’s a great platform to get people out to the farm and have an opportunity to educate others about food production.”