Last September’s first-ever Open Farm Day in Mani toba was an astounding success with more than 4,000 people, mostly from urban centres, visiting the 37 farms that participated.
As a result, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives has decided to make it an annual event, MAFRI agritourism specialist Susan Nicoll told an Ag Days seminar last week.
“The farm days event gives an opportunity to open the gates to the public and educate consumers,” Nicoll said. Farm Day started as an agritoursim initiative to get urbanites interested in where their food comes from and to give people who have never lived or worked on a farm a chance to find out what it’s like.
Some farms last year saw more than 1,000 visitors over six hours. The farms that saw those numbers were within an hour of Winnipeg or in a cluster, meaning there were several open farms within a short distance of each other. She hopes these positive numbers will attract more participation.
“We want to help the public make the connection that the food on their plate comes from the farm,” said Nicoll.
In addition to the indirect benefit of better public awareness, there can be direct benefits to farmers who participate. “Farmers have a vested interest to get involved with Open Farm Day; it is direct marketing to the consumer.”
The event attracted so many participants, particularly young families from the city, because it was something the whole family could do. “People are looking for something different to do,” said Nicoll. It was exciting for people to be able to talk to farmers and see and perhaps even touch animals. The biggest comment from visiting families was that they wanted to see more livestock and be able to taste and buy more of the farmer’s products.
A survey of farmers who participated last year found 95 per cent of them willing to participate in the event again.
Chuck Fossay, an executive director of the Keystone Agricultural Producers, says although the organization does not directly promote Open Farm Day, he believes it is a good idea for farmers to get involved as it helps to inform people on what being a farmer means today.
“I would say the benefit is it allows people to see real farms and see how farmers operate today,” said Fossay. “It shows people how much things have changed and that farming isn’t static.”
The 2011 Open Farm Day will follow a similar format to last year’s event. It will be held the third Sunday in September.
Farm Day is not unique to Manitoba. Other provinces hold similar events to this, although Manitoba is the first western province.
Britain has already held five annual farm day events, similar to the one in Manitoba. The 2010 event saw more than 420 farms open their gates to more than 184,000 visitors, all within a one-day event. The estimated economic impact from that one day was 4.3 million pounds (C$6.85 million).
To get involved with this year’s Open Farm Day contact the MAFRI agritourism line at (204)821-5322 or visit their website at Manitoba.ca/agriculture.
“Farmershaveavested interesttogetinvolved withOpenFarmDay; itisdirectmarketing totheconsumer.”