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Showcasing County of Barrhead agriculture

Councillors encourage agricultural producers to participate in Alberta Open Farm Days as a way to promote themselves and the county
Preugschas May 18 copy
County of Barrhead Coun. Walter Preugschas said at least six or seven County of Barrhead agricultural producers have expressed interest in participating in this year's Alberta Open Farm Days.

BARRHEAD - County of Barrhead councillors hope to encourage area agricultural producers to continue to be part of Open Farm Days.

During the May 18 council meeting, administration told councillors about their efforts to encourage local agricultural producers to take part Open Farm Days.

Open Farm Days is a provincial initiative that began nine years ago to serve as an incubator for agri-tourism and rural sustainability.

The county started officially promoting the event in 2019, organizing a 40-person guided bus tour visiting participating County of Barrhead producers.

In 2020, the county had planned to put on another bus tour as its initial offering had been well received, but unfortunately, fieldman Kyle Meunier said they had to change it to a self-guided tour due to the pandemic and public health restrictions.

Despite the change, he noted that the county participation in the program was high, he said, adding they estimate that at least 250 people stopped by at least one of the five-county agricultural operators included as part of the tour.

The operations showcased a large cross-section of the agricultural sectors operating in the county from dairy and beef operations, farms growing everything from grains, vegetables to fruit, to value-added businesses such as bakeries.

"It might have worked out a bit better because people had the opportunity to go where they wanted to go and when they wanted to do it," he said.

County manager Debbie Oyarzun said it is important that the county help and encourage local agricultural producers to participate in Open Farm Days.

"It falls under the Agricultural Services Board's [business plan] and our Strategic Plan," she said.

The ASB business plan states that they "explore opportunities to leverage tourism as a means to promote agriculture, while two of the goals of the Strategic Plan are to "promote and celebrate agriculture and support the development of tourism."

In addition to encouraging producers to participate, Oyarzun said, the municipality will provide tangible assistance by helping with registration and advertiing the event through the county's website and social media channels.

She added that they plan to create a map that county operators can hand out to Open Farm Day visitors.

Meunier and Oyarzun also noted that the website is very comprehensive and provides visitors with several tools to help plan their Open Farm Days experience.

"Which is why it is important to have a good buy-in," Oyarzun said, noting people are not going to drive 45-minutes or more from areas such as Edmonton to go to one farm.

She added Open Farm Days is a great opportunity not only for agricultural producers to market themselves, but the community and region.

"People are looking for experiences and memories. If you can provide it, your business will benefit for years to come ... and if you can have something to sell on-site, that is even more of an advantage," Oyarzun said, noting she experienced it first hand. "One operator I was working with, in only their second year participating, had over $5,000 in sales in one day."

As of May 18, only two County of Barrhead agricultural producers have registered.  As of May 18, only two farms were registered, however, Coun. Walter Preugschas said he knows of six or seven more who are planning to participate.

Alberta Open Farm Days take place on Aug. 14 and 15. The deadline to register is May 31.

Barry Kerton,


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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