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a promotional image for open farm days featuring a herd of bison in the background
Alberta Open Farm Days

Bison, Booze, and Barley: Alberta Open Farm Days Sure to Delight all Tastes!

A culinary and agricultural extravaganza offers an unforgettable weekend for both foodies and families

Alberta Open Farm Days are back, August 19 to 20. It’s an exciting cross-Alberta event now in its 12th year.

The farm visits show where your food comes from, and how local food is produced. There are plenty of activities across Rocky View, Mountain View and Foothills Counties to participate in!

Hosted by the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies (AAAS), the event allows attendees to explore farms, homesteads, greenhouses, distilleries, and other businesses involved in agriculture and food. 

a group of visitors consisting of mostly children petting and standing around a mother alpaca and her baby
A group of visitors with a mother alpaca and her baby at the 2021 Alberta Open Farm Days | Krista Conrad | Western Wheel

The event also features chefs, and many rural communities host farm-to-table culinary events using products sourced from Alberta.

Farm-to-table means that the food you eat comes directly from a farm. Typically, farmers rely on middlemen like wholesalers, retailers, and brokers to sell their produce. While this sounds convenient, farmers make much less from their products using middlemen who take a percentage of the sales or pay a lower wholesale price to the farmers.

Instead, farm-to-table cuts the middleman out of the equation, so the farmer’s product is sold directly to the consumer, mostly individuals/families and restaurants. For example, the produce you buy at a farmers’ market is farm-to-table. Farm-to-table experiences are a great way to support local farmers. 

Open Farm Days are the perfect chance to see how some of your favourite products are made and visit local livestock up close. 

closeup of the face of a cow in a pasture framed by barbed-wire fence
Get up close and personal at Alberta Open Farm Days. Darwin Wiggett | oopoomoo

“It’s anyone from dairy farmers to bison farmers, to ranchers and even vegetable (and other crop) farmers as well. It’s also orchards and apiaries,” Nicola Doherty, marketing coordinator for Open Farm Days, told the Cochrane Eagle

If you live in or near the Calgary area, some nearby options are Audley Family Farm, Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Eau Claire Distillery, Spirit Hills Flower Winery, Glengary Bison, Fallentimber Meadery, Happiness by the Acre, Hartell Homested, Highfield Regenerative Farm, Root and Regenerative Urban Farm, OH Ranch, Rafter U7 Ranch, and U Lazy U Ranch.

For a complete list of all the options, see this page.

Doherty explained that for many people, this event helps them remember childhood memories or experience something new. 

“So, for some people, going to the farm is that reconnection to things they remember as a kid. And some people go because they have never had the opportunity to go to a farm before and get to see a cow up close in real life,” said Doherty. 

Farmers also enjoy this day because they can share their love for their work and potentially sell some farm products.

Before COVID-19, 40,000 people would visit farms around the province during Open Farm Days. This year, Doherty is expecting similar numbers.

“We have about 150 farms who are participating, so there are lots of opportunities, no matter where you are in the province, to find a farm to visit,” she said. 

a labeled diagram of a buffalo illustrating which parts of the animal were used for what
How each part of a bison was traditionally used by Indigenous communities | Mani the Friendly Buffalo

This year, Open Farm Days is celebrating the “Year of the Bison.” Bison are an important part of Alberta, both as an animal many farmers raise and as a cultural symbol. 

According to the 2021 Census of Agriculture, there were 472 bison farms in the province, accounting for almost half of the Canadian total. 

We also lead the nation in the number of farmed bison, with over 65,000 bison across all bison farms. Bison are also an important part of Indigenous culture.

Many Indigenous communities have relied on bison for more than just food. These communities have used every part of the animal to create utensils, tools, clothing, and shelter. 

Doherty encourages everyone, especially families, to attend Open Farm Days. 

“But whether you are a foodie, or are looking for something to do for the day, or are really into agricultural education, you can determine what you would like to see and experience,” expressed Doherty. 

Consider visiting a farm. Open Farm Days are open to everyone and free of charge. But bring cash because you’ll find it hard not to buy some of the amazing food and products made by our local farmers!

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