Full Plate Farms in Miami is just one of many Pembina Valley locations on this year’s Open Farm Day tour. (SUPPLIED PHOTO)
Have you ever been curious about what goes into making the food on your table? The Manitoba Association of Agricultural Societies (MAAS) Open Farm Day is your opportunity to find out about your food, and so much more. The event takes place Sunday, September 17 at 46 host sites across Manitoba.
Open Farm Day began in 2010 as an initiative of the Department of Agriculture but in 2015, responsibility was handed off the MAAS. The event aims to spread the importance of agriculture to the province of Manitoba.
Wendy Bulloch, coordinator of the event, shared what it is all about.
“Open Farm Day is an opportunity for farms and agricultural venues and sites to open up their venues and talk about agriculture or share the history of agriculture or share their agritourism business and just provide anyone interested, whether it is an urban or rural consumer, to learn more about agriculture and become more aware of the role of agriculture in our province,” she said.
Bulloch said there was too much variety in the host sites to simply call them ‘farms.’
“We call them host sites because some of them are museums like the Pembina Threshermen’s Museum or the Roland 4H Museums, or some of them are walking tours like the Keystone Agricultural Producer’s tour of downtown Winnipeg buildings,” she said. “We are hoping to give people a broader perspective of what agriculture is in our province and how important it is.”
The variety showcased at the 46 host sites speaks to the breadth of agriculture across Manitoba.
The St. Leon Interpretive Centre, which has been involved in Open Farm Day for about five years, is a museum built in 2004 that focuses on living green and the effects of wind farming on agriculture and the environment.
“We are one of the few places that has wind turbines and they are all on farmer’s properties so it gives us a chance to let people know how the farmers feel about the wind turbines and what affect it has on farming,” said Lorraine Mabon, president of the centre’s board of directors.
The centre isn’t only restricted to discussing wind farming but branches out into other areas of environmental concern.
“We also do some environmental stuff,” said Mabon. “Salamanders were a very important part when they first opened the centre since they live at ground level and kind of in the water, it gives a good idea of the health of the environment in the area.”
One attraction is a full-size wind turbine blade on ground level.
“We have an actual blade on the site so people can see what the actual size of these things are,” said Mabon. “If you see them up on top of the tower, you don’t realize really how big they are.”
The Prairie View Elevator Museum in Plum Coulee which has participated in Open Farm Day for around four years is unique because visitors can take a peek at the inside workings of an actual grain elevator in an age when the grain elevator has almost disappeared.
“You can see how the elevator used to work and how the grain would have gone to different bins and out to the train,” said Dorothy Derksen, secretary at the museum. “They have opened up about 13 bins where they’ve displayed other items about how people used to live.”
Visit Full Plate Farms in Miami
Miami’s Full Plate Farms, just entering its first year of involvement in Open Farm Day, is a family run farm and market garden what raises and sells pork, beef, and chicken as well as a large selection of vegetables and fruits.
Barb Graham, one of the owners of the farm, said that transparency in farming practices is important to Full Plate Farms.
“We feel it is important for the consumer to have a connection with where their food comes from,” she said. “Open Farm Day is an excellent opportunity for both the consumer and the farmer to develop a relationship.”
Relationships are key to the farm, whether it is with customers or their young daughters who help out around the farm.
“We love meeting the people that feed their families with the food we produce. We also love raising our young family on the farm,” Graham said. “Raising our girls to know where their food comes from and the many important features of agriculture in many shapes and sizes is very important to us.”
Graham said they are excited for their first year as a participant in Open Farm Day and hope to make it an annual event. In the full Open Farm Day Spirit, they have planned activities for visitors including an amazing race style challenge with the help of their neighbors.
“We plan to have a few educational stations where visitors will learn fun facts about the animals we raise, the meat products we sell, as well as a few hands-on activities involving our garden and some stations just for fun,” said Graham. “We are going to offer each of our visitor’s a free afternoon of entertainment, complete with great prizes and a shopping experience.”
Bulloch said that it is the host site volunteers that make her excited about the work she does bringing Open Farm Day to Manitobans. Their passion for agriculture and sharing their stories inspires her.
“I could talk about my passion, but I want to talk about the passion that all these host sites show and how dedicated they are to this and how much they want to tell their story,” she said.
Hosts make it happen
Host sites give a lot to help make Open Farm Day happen including meeting standards to ensure safety for visitors, closing their farms for a day, and sometimes offering refreshments, activities, or prizes all out of pocket.
“They don’t get paid to do this. They do this out of the goodness and kindness and their passion about the industry and about sharing their story with others about agriculture,” said Bulloch. “They’re just opening up their farm or their host sites and it costs anywhere for some of them from 500 to 1,000 dollars. So, what does that tell you about their passion?”
Bulloch encourages Open Farm Day goers to plan ahead. Check out the website at www.openfarmday.ca for information on finding locations by region. Pick up a brochure at a library or host site near year or find it on the website.
Plan on spending at least an hour at each host site.
“We recommend people to look at coming on a small tour, so pick you know, two or three sites that are close together and then go and plan to spend time there,” Bulloch said.
Bulloch stressed that it is important to remember that internet and cell phone service is not uniform in rural areas in Manitoba.
“I strongly recommend to pick up a brochure or print off the information because the directions are very very accurate,” she said.
Visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MBOpenFarmDay/ for more pictures and information about the sites including amazing stories about each site.