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Farm Days first-timers tout importance of connecting people back to the farm

Open Farm Days was held over the weekend with around 123 farms across Alberta taking part in the event

There were a couple of new farm faces in this year’s Alberta Open Farm Days over the weekend.

“It’s super exciting to see the people come out that have never been out to the farm, which is hilarious. A lot of people didn't even know we existed until Open Farm Days. It's been awesome,” said Amanda McIntyre, marketing and communications for 2BK Vegetable Farm in Sturgeon County.

On Aug. 13 and 14 the province held the 10th annual Open Farm Days, with more than 120 locations across the province taking part in the event.

It was 2BK Vegetable Farm's first time participating in the event. McIntyre said they had about 60 people during the first tour they did of the farm on Saturday.

“It's a lot busier than we anticipated. But it's great,” she said.

The farm was approached by Open Farm Days in years past, but McIntyre said this year was the first year they were prepared to invite people out.

“We've been growing so fast that it's hard to keep up with the store and never mind doing tours. But as we're getting busier people are really wanting to see how we do it around here. Because vegetable farming isn't a norm. You don't see it everywhere,” she said.

McIntyre said their vegetables are grown primarily at the farm in Namao, but they also have two fields in northeast Edmonton. They grow a variety of vegetables, including greens, peas, carrots, beets, potatoes, and corn, which they sell in-store on the property in Namao.

Kendra McClain is a regular at 2BK and was surprised when she arrived on an off Saturday with three kids in tow to purchase vegetables and discovered the farm was holding Farm Day events.

McClain said she was not going to participate in any of the Farm Day events, but there are many reasons why she chooses to support local farmers.

“It just tastes so much better. And you have such a short season to buy local. And the kids love it. And support local, I guess, is good.”

Coralee and Jeff Nonay from Lakeside Farmstead said they decided to join Farm Days this year because this year they have a business where they can sell products.

“We really love the idea of connecting people back to the farm. Farm-to-plate, sort of, is what inspires us. Our beef is in restaurants. Our cheese is in a lot of local area grocery stores, and it just is kind of full circle for people to see where our dairy cows get milked,” Coralee said.

The family-run dairy farm has been incorporated in Sturgeon County since 1976, but cheese has only been on the menu for the last two years.

“We're one of few single-source cheeses. Every piece of cheese is made from our milk on farm,” she said.

This includes a Chaga cheese with Chaga sourced from Untamed Feast.

“It's our most unique. Nobody's ever done it before. We created the process and combination.

“The neat part of that mushroom and the process is that it's enzyme as well as flavour. It changes the texture and how the cheese ages and we love it,” said Jeff.

It is also the first year Alberta Hemp Works of Barrhead — a family-owned business working to promote, produce, and process hemp products — joined in on Farm Days.

Colleen Stein, who is the president of Alberta Hemp Works, said Farm Days gave her the opportunity to trial the market for their Iron Horse Hemp products.

“We're still a new company. [Farm Days] gives us an opportunity to get feedback to see if people would come to a market,” she said.

Stein’s brother grows the hemp they use for their products, and she wants to utilize both the hemp grain and fibre — which isn’t typical.

“We do process the fibre here on a small scale. We're just trying to determine what products we want to run with, and who we're working with,” Stein said.

Christina Goodvin of 3D Space Terraform is one of the individuals who is working on uses for hemp fibre. She is an engineer who is passionate about alternative building solutions, including hempcrete.

Goodvin laughed as she explained she came to Farm Days because Stein bribed her to be there. She wasn’t selling anything during Farm Days, but she put her booth next to Stein’s to give people information about hempcrete and other fibre uses.

The response from people, she said, has been amazing.

“I'm in my little world of geekery. But they're like, 'hempcrete.' And they said the word and I didn't say first. That's impressive because [hempcrete’s] not really displayed anywhere.

“Alberta. We should be the leader in [hemp], hands down.”