Organizers of Alberta Open Farm Days are always looking for more farm families to participate.
But what can you offer visitors if you have, as Kent Erickson puts it, a “boring old conventional grain farm” or ranch?
Here are some of the things conventional producers did this year.
Terry Banack created a display using common grocery store items, and posters with pictures taken from an entire growing season, to help visitors see the link between the field and the fork. There was even a matching game with plant samples and harvested grain.
“For sure, they could see the connection,” she said. “Last year, we had some retired farmers visiting, but this year those who came had no farm experience. It felt rewarding to be able to show them from seed to sale.
“We’re really in the same boat as them. We sell our grain, but we buy the products from the store too.”
The Ericksons lined up their equipment in the farmyard, with Kent and his father on hand to explain how they worked. It was a simple thing, but a real highlight for their visitors.
“They were all fascinated by the technology, and couldn’t believe how high tech farms are,” said Erickson. “They were curious about how it had changed. I guess some people still believe we’re all farming 50 acres and have all sorts of animals.”
The family also had a display showing the eight different crops they grow, outlining where they’re sold, and how they are used. Mel and Laurie Anne Erickson also created a brochure on the farm’s history, and that sparked a lot of questions.
“They were asking about how costs have changed, and the volume of grain we produced,” said Kent Erickson.
There were so many questions on economics that he plans to do some homework and have more of the numbers at his fingertips for next year.
Having the whole family on hand is also key, said Barry Reese, who was joined by his brother and father so there was always someone available when there was a surge of visitors.
The Stamps, too, had a display with small bags of seed, as well as information on the various processes used on the farm and about irrigation. And they were also able to show off a farm habitat project that saw one hundred thousand shrubs planted in riparian areas for habitat protection.
And stock up on brochures and recipe handouts from commodity commissions, said Terry Banack.
“It helps if they can go home with some reminders.”
And don’t be surprised if being part of Alberta Open Farm Days leads to unexpected things.
This spring, the Reeses got a call from some German farmers who were visiting their part of Alberta and found their name and contact info at albertafarmdays.ca. The visitors, who are custom sprayers and manure spreaders, spent about four hours on the farm. Then they invited the Reeses to visit them in Germany one day and learn about agriculture in that country.