FUN, FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION AT ALBERTA OPEN FARM DAYS, AUGUST 19 AND 20, 2017
BY IAN DOIG • PHOTOS COURTESY AG FOR LIFE
Everything you read on the Internet about farming isn’t necessarily true.
“To me, growing up in the agricultural industry, there’s such misconception of what farmers do,” says Origin Malting & Brewing co-owner and product manager Kyle Geeraert. He and business partner Josh Michaluk are launching their Strathmore malting and brewing business on Aug. 4, in time to take part in Alberta Open Farm Days, Aug. 19-20, 2017.
Educating the public about farming is something these agri-entrepreneurs are passionate about, and they’ve made it part of their business concept in the form of transparency and the traceability of their malt, which is grown by Hilton Ventures, a multi-family farming operation Geeraert’s family is part of.
On Open Farm Days, he explains that visitors can discover the true origin story of Origin’s malt, physically meet the farmers that grow it and hear their part of the story.
“If consumers that don’t know much about agriculture can come out and have a conversation with the farmers, they will realize there’s a reason farmers do what they do, but it’s not that they’re out to make millions on hurting the consumer. If we can tell that true story and tie it into beer tasting, it draws more people out and they get the education.”
Origin is part of a joint tour. Departing from Calgary’s Tool Shed Brewing Company twice a day on the Saturday and Sunday, buses will take participants for tours of rodeo legend Scott Schiffner’s ranch and Hilton Ventures farm. Then it’s on to Origin for a brewery tour and meal followed by a return to Tool Shed for a second brewery tour and tasting.
This cooperative approach to the event, now in its fifth year, has grown with its expansion to two full days. “We’re seeing a lot more collaboration, with groups coming together and really planning out their experience,” says Ag for Life CEO Luree Williamson. “They take a lot of pride in participating in Alberta Open Farm Days. That’s fantastic for visitors—they know they’re coming out for an exceptional event that has taken groups a lot of time and great pleasure to organize.”
The event’s 20,000 annual visitors can now take in an array of farm tours, agricultural attractions and culinary events across the province. The farm operations are diverse to say the least, including Little Cherries on the Prairie orchard northwest of Red Deer, Round Rock Ranching, an Angus beef operation south of Vermilion and Big Marble Farms, a greenhouse vegetable operation just southwest of Lethbridge.
“Every year we’ve seen more people come out and take an interest in learning where their food comes from and enjoying some of the best that Alberta agriculture has to offer,” says Williamson.
She explains that participants are evenly split between urban and rural residents, but many of the latter have farming in their family backgrounds. This includes a large number of new immigrants keen to compare Canadian farming with that of the countries they’re from.
Anyone interested in participating in Open Farm Days can visit albertafarmdays.com to plan farm visits and locate ticket information for the weekend’s culinary events. Williamson suggests perhaps two or three farm tours can be done in one day and the site can provide guidance on accommodation in rural communities for those making a weekend of it.