Rural Manitoba has once again been getting ready for its close-up.
The occasion is the annual Open Farm Day slated for this Sunday, Sept. 16.
Forty-two sites are preparing to open their doors to the public this weekend, slightly down from last year’s 46, although co-ordinator Wendy Bulloch says she is still happy with the lineup.
Several sites decided to opt out this year after years of consistent participation, she said.
“Some of them have been with Open Farm Day for more than five years, so some of them just said, ‘We need a break,’ and some of them had different things happening, so they said, ‘We’ll be back next year,’” she said. “We’re actually very pleased and we’re pleased with the variety of sites we’ve got.”
Cattle- and grain-based family farms, perhaps the best-known concept of rural life for many urbanites, will be on offer again this year, although visitors may just as easily get a more unconventional taste of agriculture.
Farm stops include industry leaders like Brooks and Jen White, bison ranchers and this year’s Manitoba Outstanding Young Farmers award winners from Lyleton, Man. The farm has made waves for its cover cropping, grazing systems and pursuit of regenerative agriculture. Tamarack Farms, meanwhile, is one of the few commercial quinoa growers in the province and is also one of the new names on the docket this year.
Beekeepers, dairies, organic farms, a brewery, and two therapy-based equine operations also join the list. Visitors near Grandview may get a taste of equine-assisted learning at SGA Stables, while those farther south may detour to Lucky Break Ranch in Rivers, which offers equine-based programming for PTSD, team building and anti-bullying.
“Every year we get new people signed on,” Bulloch said.
Several conservation districts have also added their names to the list, including the Pelly Lake project near Treherne, a drainage project and interpretive location run by the LaSalle-Redboine Conservation District. The district has been upgrading the one-kilometre trail with educational signage.
Those making the trek to the southwest, meanwhile, may prefer a close encounter with burrowing owls. The Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program and Turtle Mountain Conservation District are slated for an appearance at the Vanbeselaere farm near Medora. Keith and Lisa Vanbeselaere are among the few to volunteer their land to hatch and reintroduce wild burrowing owls to the region. The burrowing owl program is another new host to join Open Farm Day this year.
Manitoba’s agriculture-oriented museums and research sites will also return. The Manitoba Agricultural Museum, Pembina Threshermen’s Museum and Mennonite Heritage Village all feature on the list, along with the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Yellow Quill location near Wawanesa and Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre in Glenlea. Last year, the centre saw 685 visitors during the day compared to about 500 the previous year.
“It was actually quite exciting. One sow was farrowing when our guests were here, so they got to see piglets being born,” centre manager Myran Grahn said at the time, adding that it was the, “highest number of people we’ve ever had here in one day.”
Roland’s more than 100-year history with 4-H will once again be in the spotlight at the Roland 4-H Museum, while the Manitoba Dairy Museum in St. Claude will also open its doors.
It will also be the first Open Farm Day for the newly restored Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba Dome Building in Brandon, unveiled just days before the exhibition’s annual summer festival this year. The exhibition cut the ribbon on the building Sept. 12.
“We’ve got just a really great, broad perspective of different sites,” Bulloch said.
The province-wide event is once again taking to social media and spreading flyers through Winnipeg and provincial libraries. Organizers are spreading the hashtag, #OpenFarmDay2018 and the group’s Twitter handle, @MBOpenFarmDay, is active, along with a Facebook page. A full list of host sites can be found at www.openfarmday.ca.