Rural Manitoba is preparing for a temporary population jump.
Forty-six locations have signed on for the eighth annual Open Farm Day Sept. 17, including farms, museums and agricultural research centres, which will draw droves of interested non-farmers into the countryside.
Participating locations have steadily increased over the past three years, Manitoba Open Farm Day co-ordinator Wendy Bulloch says. Seventeen new stops were added, although other hosts dropped out this year. Last year, 44 locations signed on, up from 37 in 2015.
The organization expects the day to draw thousands this year. An estimated 13,000 people attended in the last two years combined. Most urban visitors stick to sites close to home, Bulloch said, although she has heard of some driving from Winnipeg to Rapid City or Brookdale in western Manitoba.
“I can honestly say it’s a really big cross-section,” she added. “It isn’t one particular demographic.”
Major sectors such as beef, chicken, dairy and mixed farms are well represented according to this year’s list, although Bulloch noted that few grain farms were able to commit due to harvest. Those more conventional sites are joined by a bison ranch in the Interlake, beekeepers, stables, an orchard, sheep farms, the Farmery Estate Brewery in Neepawa, the St. Leon wind farm, conservation districts, organic operations, vegetable and berry producers, agritourism spots, five museums and a historical tour exploring agriculture’s role building downtown Winnipeg.
Promotion has stepped up on social media this year, Bulloch added. The organization has profiled farms on their Facebook page and have launched the hashtag, #FarmDay17.
For the Jochum family of St. Francois Xavier, there is around four years of history hosting for Manitoba Open Farm Day.
“We just have a lot of fun talking to the public about what we do in our business and we love what we do,” Fiona Jochum said.
The grain farm’s equipment will be out in force Sept. 17 along with talks on their crops, current farm technology and current markets for their products.
Last year, the farm attracted more than 100 visitors.
“We have, I would say, a lot of people from an urban background coming, but a good number from rural as well,” Jochum said. “The reason we have so many from urban is that we’re so close to Winnipeg and we’re really not far from Portage la Prairie, so it’s an easy Sunday drive for people and that draws in the urban people.
“They ask all sorts of questions,” she added. “It could be anything from the most basic thing, like, ‘What do you use that tractor for?’ or, ‘How long does it take to grow a canola plant?’ or something like that, to things that are more complex like, ‘Do you use GMOs?’”
The Jochum family will not be the only farm delving into the deeper side of agriculture. Brian Harper of Circle H Farms will showcase nutrient-dense beef production while Nerbas Bros. Angus Farm, the winner of this year’s Manitoba Beef Producers Environmental Stewardship Award, will have their low-input grazing system on display near Shellmouth.
The Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiative, Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre in Glenlea and Assiniboine Community College greenhouses are among the research-oriented stops.
“When it’s farms that are opening up, this is totally volunteer for them,” Bulloch said. “They spend a lot of time getting their yards cleaned up and getting ready. They have extra people — friends, families come in and help to be there, to have extra people around to answer questions or just help with things.”
Certain tourist and museum stops come with a small admission charge, Bulloch said.
A full list of Open Farm Day sites is posted at www.openfarmday.ca.
4-H and Open Farm Day
Roland is once again brushing off its history as the home of Canadian 4-H.
The Roland 4-H Museum will highlight the organization’s history and changes over more than 100 years.
Clayton Robins, Manitoba 4-H Council executive director, counted five 4-H families participating in Open Farm Day this year as well as a number of former 4-H members.
“They’re not, obviously, going to be saying that they’re 4-H family farms that day, but we just wanted to raise awareness that we have some of our folks in the program,” he said. “This is what they’re doing to show the world about agriculture and tell their story and we’re hoping that they’re using all the skills they learned in 4-H to do that.”
The Jochum farm is one of those 4-H families and, last year, Fiona Jochum planned her Master Leadership 4-H project around the day. As part of her membership to the University of Manitoba 4-H Leaders Club, Jochum oversaw the application, logistics and prepared both equipment and yard for visitors.
The event ties into 4-H’s 2017 theme, community engagement and leadership. Themes are rotated each year and are based on 4-H’s four leadership “pillars,” which include science and technology, sustainable agriculture and food security and environment and healthy living.
The Manitoba 4-H Council is eyeing a number of community engagement workshops and partnerships with sports teams later this year.