Ian Smith with one of the boars he keeps at his farm, Natural Raised Pork, just north of Argyle. Smith s is one of nine Interlake operations taking part in Manitoba s first Open Farm Day this Sunday.
Farms all over Manitoba will open their doors to visitors this Sunday for the first annual Open Farm Day.
Open Farm Day, Sept. 19, is a day which will give the public direct access to farmers so they can discover how they're food is grown. Other provinces have taken part in past years, and Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) is getting Manitoba involved in 2010. Over 35 farms are participating Sunday, including nine Interlake operations: Integrity Foods in Riverton, Gimli's Creature Comforts Cottage and Narfa Farms, Sheeples Fine Fibres in Inwood, Lakefield Farm in Petersfield, Natural Raised Pork outside Argyle, Riddell's Roasters and Rubber Ducky Resort and Campground in the Warren area, and Grenkow Holsteins, located south of Stonewall.
The participating farms will all be open for different hours, and they'll all give their visitors a chance to see their operations up close and talk to farmers directly.
Ian Smith runs Natural Raised Pork on the quarter-section of land his family has owned north of Argyle since 1953, and has been selling pork for the last five or six years.
Smith produces naturally raised pork products, with about 200-250 pigs located at the farm. He also keeps laying hens, cows, and horses. His hogs live in spacious barns which are cleaned twice a day. The barley feed grown at the farm is prepared with no antibiotics or hormones. In warmer weather, suckling piglets can be seen roaming around outside in the sun, rooting around in the ground.
In recent years, his operation has been recognized by the Winnipeg Humane Society, which gave him their Humane Farmer Award in 2005 and the Manitoba Food Charter.
Smith is one of many producers who will be taking visitors on tours of his operation. After he's done, his visitors will get to sample his products.
"I'm going to be handing out ham on a bun and drinks and giving them a tour, showing them what a small farmer can do on a quarter-section," Smith says.
"I have no off-farm income, there's no income coming to that farm except from what I'm getting off that quarter-section."
He says Open Farm Day will be a great opportunity for people unfamiliar with farming operations to talk directly to producers and have their questions answered.
"This is their golden opportunity to come out to these farms to see how these farms operate," he says.
"I think this is a great opportunity. This is like a form of Folklorama, where you can come out, you have an opportunity for that one day to jump from one farm to another and see the different operations."
Joe Streker at Sheeples Fine Fibres will be taking visitors on a tour that will feature a farm equipment display, showing off what's used to make hay, along with an explanation of the hay-making process.
From there, they'll take their guests to see the sheep they keep there, showing off the numerous breeds on the site.
"A bunch of the different breeds that we have, people will be able to see them, which are primarily wool breed animals that we have to fleece," Streker says, adding they have neighbours who have meat-breed sheep that will be on display for comparison.
"What we have is a bunch of neighbours that have meat-breed sheep, and what we'll have is some of the meat-breed sheep on display so people can see the difference."
There will also be more rare breeds, such as some Icelandic sheep.
They'll also be explaining the process of raising and caring for sheep, as well as a shearing demonstration. They'll also offer a demonstration of the washing, carding, spinning, and the other steps in the process to create their products. They'll also be showing how yarn was made using a spinning wheel as well as a higher-tech way of getting the job done.
"Basically, what they'll be able to see is everything in the farm circle that's required to raise the livestock and all the steps to get the fleece off that lamb... right through to the finished product they put on their back," Streker says.
He says Open Farm Day may also offer an opportunity to dispel some myths about wool products.
"There's a lot of bad publicity for sheep and wool in general, that there's so may people that think they're allergic to wool," he explains.
"What they have is a sensitivity to coarse wool. With the merino breeds we have, it's very fine wool. We're going to have some of the meat-breed sheep here, which are coarse wool. So if you wear a sweater that's made of a meat-breed sheep that's very coarse, it's going to be itchy. And that itch factor is what makes people think they're allergic... the fine wool, that comes off the merino, people find they are not allergic to that."
Rudy Reimer from Riddell's Roasters, says they'll be showing off not just their chicken operation, where they direct-sell their poultry to the public, but also the rainbow trout fish farm that they are in the process of starting up.
"We're fairly unique as far as the chicken operation goes, because we direct sell, all our chickens are marketed directly from the farm. We raise the chickens here, and we also do all the processing here and all the marketing here," Reimer says.
A couple of years ago, they came upon a Canada-Manitoba model farm project for rainbow trout. Manitoba was the first to get everything in place for the project and Riddell's put in its proposal and were picked to set up the fish farm.
"Now we are just about ready to start production," he says.
"We're hoping we'll have fish in here by the first of October."
They plan to have scheduled tours of both operations. The fish farm is up and running, they just need to get the fish in the water.
"We'll go through the chicken operation and explain how that's all done. People will be able to go right into the plant and see how processing is done, have that explained to them, what the chickens are fed and everything," he says.
"Then into the fish facility, they'll be able to go in there. It is operating as far as water and everything is pumping and flowing and running, it's just basically that the fish aren't quite in it yet."
Like his fellow producers, he thinks providing the public with direct access to farmers is a good idea.
"It just opens up more people to have the opportunity to come out and talk to producers and find out exactly how they're food is being grown," Reimer says.
However, the concept of having their doors open to the public won't be a huge change of pace for operations like Riddell's Roasters.
"Because we already have people coming on site to buy chickens, it's always been an open farm," Reimer says.
"It's just, for a lot of other people that don't even know we're here really, this is another opportunity for people to come out and see how things actually work, and maybe address some questions and myths that are out there as well."
The hours each of the participating farms will be open on Sunday can be found online at MAFRI's website at www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture.