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City Folks Get A Close-Up View Of Farms — And Farmers

It wasn t just pigs squealing on Ian Smith s farm last weekend. Kids echoed in delight as they took part in Manitoba s second annual Open Farm Day, getting a close-up look at piglets and farming.

I just think it s a good idea to get the kids out, and see the different kinds of farms, where the pigs are raised, where the cows are milked, said Sarah Furgale, who brought her family out for Open Farm Day.

More than 40 farms participated this year, ranging from organic market gardens and fish farms, to cattle operations and butterfly breeders.

It s good to open their eyes to where food comes from, Furgale said.

Smith, owner of Natural Pork near Argyle, couldn t agree more.

How can you not enjoy your work when you see little kids smiling, holding little pigs, he said. People here are getting away from perimeter-itis too they are seeing what a true mixed farm is like.

Smith has farmed his family s quarter section since 1991, but began selling pork online about six years ago. He now supplies two grocery stores, a soup kitchen and a half-way house with naturally raised pork, in addition to filling online orders.

His operation is also certified by the Humane Society.

To make it work, I figured I had to do something different, said Smith, who has no off-farm income to fall back on.

This is the second time he has taken part in Open Farm Day, and he is already looking forward to next year s event.

Grenkow Holsteins, Lloyd Grenkow s family farm near Stonewall, also opened its doors for the second year in a row, giving people the opportunity to see a robotic dairy operation in action.

I think a lot of people have no experience with dairy farms, or any farms really, he said. So it s great to give people a chance to see how the system works, how farming works. A lot of people are surprised even by things like the size of the straw bales, or the equipment.

To ensure the day ran smoothly, Grenkow said family and friends jumped on board to help out.

We even got the reeve of the RM to come down and pitch in, he chuckled.

COWS GIVE THE DEMO

Grenkow pointed out his operation, which has been up and running for a year and a half, is different than a traditional tie-stall operation.

The cows here can access the robots 24 hours a day, eat freely, sit down, rest& they are milked when they want to be milked, he explained. He added the robotic method has increased production from 28 litres per cow per day, to upwards of 38 litres.

The robotic milkers were also popular with visitors to the farm, with both adults and kids cooing words of encouragement to nearby cows in the hopes they would wander into the milker and give them another demonstration.

I think I would like to have cows some day, and horses too, said 11-year-old Anna Liese who showed no fear in the face of curious calves, who nuzzled and licked some visitors.

They re so cute, but it s neat to see where the milk comes from too, she added.

Some Open Farm Day visitors capped off the event by sampling Manitoba s fresh produce at one of two fall suppers held in Arborg and Steinbach.

When you look around, we re an under-represented demographic here, said Allison Fenske of Winnipeg. The 27-year-old visited three farms before heading to Arborg for the Arborg and District Multicultural Heritage Village s fall supper.

It s nice to be a part of a tradition that is still important in rural communities, she explained.

Pat Eyolfson was the driving force behind the fall supper in Arborg, which will help the Heritage Village pay to relocate a barn in the spring.

She was pleased the event sold nearly 200 tickets, but said it was also about pulling a community together for a type of event that had a long history in Manitoba s small towns.

People absolutely loved it, we have gotten a lot of very positive responses, Eyolfson enthused, adding the meal was prepared by chef Karen Nielson of Fat Cat Bistro near Arnes, north of Gimli.

If the first three courses didn t fill patrons quite to the brim, it was followed by a roving dessert party through the site s heritage buildings.

I think it s safe to say the day was a success, said Eyolfson.

shannon. [email protected]

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It sgreattogivepeopleachancetoseehow thesystemworks,howfarmingworks.Alot ofpeoplearesurprisedevenbythingslikethe sizeofthestrawbales,ortheequipment.

LLOYD GRENKOW

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Alotofpeoplearesurprisedevenbythingslikethesizeofthestrawbales,ortheequipment.

LLOYD GRENKOW FROM GRENKOW HOLSTEINS

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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