Farms across the province are opening their gates to the public this weekend.
The fourth Alberta Open Farm Days takes place Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, with a range of events taking place on more than 100 commercial and family farms province-wide. In the Foothills, guests can take in tours and activities at the Chinook Honey Farm and Turner Valley’s Eau Claire Distillery.
Alberta minister of culture and tourism Ricardo Miranda said the weekend provides great opportunity to feature rural life and highlight agri-tourism.
“It opens up the farms to people, their neighbours and people from urban centres, to come in and experience rural Alberta,” said Miranda.
People get a peek into what it takes to run a farm and put food on the table. Farmers are also given a rare opportunity to brag about their work and potentially increase their own markets, he said.
During last year’s events, farm product sales amounted to approximately $100,000, he said, and this year’s goal is to increase to $125,000 in product sold.
“There’s a lot of really good work being done out there by a lot of talented people and there is an opportunity for us to boost rural communities and their economies just by bringing people who are interested in learning where their food comes from,” said Miranda. “All these different things coming together, it’s the perfect opportunity.”
It provides families unique opportunities to spend time together close to home while learning something along the way, he said.
He said he hopes visitors take away an education about where their food comes from, something he believes is very important.
He said Alberta Open Farm Days allows people to not only see where their food comes from, but to learn from the people who work the land and raise animals that feed others.
Some education opportunities include hands-on learning on the farm – like extracting honey at the Chinook Honey Farm just west of Okotoks.
Mid-August is considered harvest time at the honey farm, so live demonstrations are part of the excitement for Alberta Open Farm Days.
“We have hands-on honey spinning for visitors, honey extracting,” said Cherie Andrews, co-owner of Chinook Honey Farm.
The extraction takes place at the observation hive inside the discovery centre, which will be open to the public to learn about honey bees.
Two workshops are scheduled in the afternoons. An open hive demonstration will allow visitors to interact with and learn about bees and a tour of the meadery will show how honey wine is made.
Both workshops cost $10 for adults and $7.50 for seniors and children. Mead tastings are also available at no charge at the store’s tasting bar without taking the meadery tour.
For those looking for a more self-guided experience, a pollinator walk will take visitors on a site tour indicating different pollinating sources the bees at Chinook Honey Farm have been using. A bail maze will keep little ones entertained.
It’s the third year the farm has participated in Alberta Open Farm Days, and Andrews said it’s been a great way to draw people to the farm and teach them about bee culture.
“Being able to educate people about bees is our biggest goal,” she said. “Everybody’s sort of curious because we’re all heard the different problems they’re having, so we get to really explain to people what the issues are.”
She said it’s also nice to show visitors the product Chinook Honey Farm provides locally. The honey is top-quality, she said.
Chinook Honey Farm will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, with apiary workshops at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and meadery tours at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Further west, in Turner Valley, Eau Clair Distillery will be opening its doors to the public for tours and tastings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Visitors can tour the distillery and barrel room, finished with a tasting of the company’s three main products: Three Point Vodka, Parlour Gin and Prickly Pear Equinox.
“We’ll be having those tours and mainly we are directing people to the Bar U Ranch to see our grain acres over there,” said Eau Claire spokesperson Chelsea Barclay. “We are a host, but that’s where our grain acres are so we don’t really have any farming on-site here.”
Eau Claire Distillery will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 19 and Aug. 20, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 21.
Tours will be offered at 12, 2, 4 and 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 12, 2, and 3 p.m. on Sunday. Each tasting costs $6.50 per person, or $12 for a tour and tasting.
For more information on Alberts Open Farm Days visit www.albertafarmdays.com