A total of 44 farms and other agricultural sites threw their doors open last Sunday to celebrate Open Farm Day, part of Farm and Food Awareness week, which runs until Sept. 25.
Open Farm Day co-ordinator Wendy Bulloch said the farm hosts always go the extra mile to showcase the industry at the event, which is in its seventh year.
“It’s an incredible amount of work, and really shows their dedication and excitement about telling their story,” Bulloch said in an interview the day after the event. “They really try to give their visitors a memorable experience and they do it all from the goodness and kindness of their hearts.”
It’s too early for full attendance figures but anecdotally she’s heard from farmer participants that attendance numbers were good and there was a lot of interest.
One attendee was Ralph Eichler, provincial agriculture minister, who visited an Interlake bison operation (see photo at top). Eichler said he was pleased to be able to help celebrate the event.
“It’s just a great opportunity to show people what we do on farm here in the province, and share our great story,” Eichler said in an interview. “In a lot of cases people don’t really have the opportunity to visit a farm, and this gives them that chance.”
With fewer people involved directly in agriculture, those opportunities are growing scarcer for many Manitobans, Eichler said.
The uptake from many sectors of the business underscores just how welcome the chance to tell their story is to many producers, he added.
“Food production is a big responsibility, and this is a way to showcase what it is we do on behalf of society,” Eichler said.
The various farms and agricultural sites are widely dispersed throughout agricultural Manitoba, including an expanded presence in the northern reaches, Bulloch said.
“For the first time this year, we had three sites around The Pas participating, so we were very excited about that,” Bulloch said.
Bulloch said one of the greatest challenges when inviting non-farmers to the farm is making sure everyone stays safe while still getting the full farm experience.
“For those of us who grew up on the farm, a lot of farm safety is second nature,” Bulloch said. “But a lot of these kids — and frankly a lot of the parents — just don’t know.”
Bulloch said on-site visits help to ensure safety protocols are met, and prominent reminders of farm safety best practices are posted on the organization’s website and printed in brochures for the event.
While many made the trek to a farm, there were other options to get a bit of background, including a tour of Winnipeg’s colourful agricultural past hosted by the Keystone Agricultural Producers in the city’s historic Exchange District. Val Ominski, KAP’s communications co-ordinator, led the tours which started at Old Market Square and included highlights like the facades of the original Winnipeg Grain and Produce Exchange, historic farm machinery production sites, information on the city’s role as a mercantile hub during the settlement of the Prairies and its growth into a centre of the grain trade and agriculture expertise such as Cigi and the Canadian Grain Commission.
“The message is about how this industry may start on the farm, but it very quickly comes to the city in the form of economic activity and employment opportunities,” Ominski said.
The historic tour was originally offered as part of Heritage Winnipeg’s Doors Open Winnipeg celebration this past spring and was so popular Open Farm Day organizers requested a reprise for this event.
“People really are interested in the history of Winnipeg, and that history includes a lot of agriculture,” Ominski said.