A day with the public continues to reap hands-on learning, farm product sales, and positive feedback from visitors and participating farm owners
Cars lined driveways and filled up farmyards last Sunday as Manitobans ventured out for another Open Farm Day.
This is the third year the province has hosted the day to encourage ordinary Manitobans to get out and visit participating working farms and agritourism ventures.
Fifty-one locations were listed in the 2012 guide, including many playing host for a second time.
“We had a very busy day,” said Rose Graydon at Woodmore. She and her husband Cliff opened up their grain and cattle farm a second year and were delighted with a steady stream of visitors all day.
They were really pleased Winnipeggers came to visit, said Rose.
“I really hoped we’d get people from the city and we did,” she said, adding that they were very interested in learning about the Charolais breed the Graydons raise, and how they care for their livestock and what types of crops they grow. Rose made sure her visitors took home a spaghetti squash and a few tomatoes too.
“I think this is such a good idea, to bring rural Manitoba to the city,” she said.
Their visitor numbers far exceeded expectations of first-time Open Farm Day hosts LeVerne Tucker and Tim Gutheil near Teulon.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Gutheil who estimated by mid-afternoon at least 300 had come to see LeVerne’s small alpaca herd and on-farm shop where she was demonstrating how she processes fleece into fine fibre.
“At one point it looked like the Safeway parking lot out there,” added Tucker, who loved hosting her guests. It was great for sales and visitors even convinced her to hold a Christmas craft sale, she said.
This year’s Open Farm Day also included two special day-before events, including the Woodlands-area Hueging family hosting a six-course chef-prepared gourmet “Grazing in the Field” dinner on their dairy farm, while across the province visitors to Asessippi Ski Resort also sat down to a specially prepared meal of local foods.
The “Savour the Flavour” at Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site also hosted a Sunday “Savour the Flavour” dinner, while the Mennonite Heritage Village held its third annual “Supper from the Field.”
Host farms included a wide range of working farms, as well as agritourism ventures plus special attractions such as the Manitoba Agriculture Museum at Austin and the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre at Glenlea.
Preplanned routes and tours also linked regional attractions together.
Stonewall mom Shawna Christie said her two sons, age two and four, thoroughly enjoyed Open Farm Day. By mid-afternoon Sunday they’d been to three farms, including Grenkows dairy farm near Winnipeg, “which the kids loved,” she said. This was the first time they’d done this and found it a wonderful way to spend the day as a family, said Christie. She hopes there’ll be another next year.
“I’d definitely come back,” she said.
Evidently, more are just starting to hear about Open Farm Day. Winnipeg resident Tricia Hill, visiting Storybook Art and Fibre at Teulon with knitting friends, said she’d never heard of the day until her sister told her about it.
“We jumped at it. We didn’t even realize there was such a thing as Open Farm Day,” said Hill, adding that she’d had a great day and really enjoyed learning about the work and lives of people in the country.
Organizers will need some time to tally 2012’s visitor numbers. Last year about 5,000 visited just over 40 farms.
Keith Watson, MAFRI diversification specialist said just three visitors came to hear about hemp at the demonstration farm at Gilbert Plains, but they were genuinely interested in learning about the crop and how its being processed in Manitoba. He’d be happy to do this another year, he said.
“It’s our job to get out to the urban public, which this is targeted at,” he said. “To me even a handful of people is part of that contact and from there it spreads out and expands in other ways. ”
Interlake dairy farmer Lloyd Grenkow said they had a great day though noted a slight downturn in visitors compared to 2011 and 2010. Many visitors tell them they’ve never set foot on a dairy farm before.
“There’s lots of good interaction. You get a lot of thanks and appreciation for what you do,” he said. “And there are amazing questions that people ask.”
Graydon said she’d urge more mixed grain and livestock farmers to open their farms up.
“Everyone in the city needs to understand where food comes from,” she said. “And every farm in Manitoba has a lot to offer. They might be a beef producer or a grain producer too, but there’s something unique about every farm.”