It’s strange that agritourism isn’t a bigger industry in Alberta, given the huge number and variety of farms here. For those unfamiliar, “agritourism” refers to agricultural tourism, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: promoting farms and other agricultural operations as a place for people to visit, from ranches to grain farms to fruit wineries.
Even though they often don’t advertise it, many Alberta farms welcome visitors—but it’s always a good idea to call ahead and confirm your visit. For inspiration on which places to try, stop by one of the city’s farmers’ markets: that will give you an idea of the different producers out there, and you can ask them firsthand about visiting.
Several Alberta farms host annual events, usually over the summer months. The following is a collection of some of the most popular.
Alberta Open Farm Days
Alberta Open Farm Days is the biggest agritourism event in the province. The two-day event (held this year on August 20 and 21), marks the fourth-annual Open Farm Days in Alberta—the concept started in the Maritimes over 10 years ago and has moved west since then. The event has locations throughout the province, with host farms from north to south. In addition to tours and events at all types of farms, Open Farm Days also features culinary experiences like farm-to-table dinners.
The list of this year’s host farms and culinary events hasn’t been announced yet, as the deadline to apply is May 31. Check the website at albertafarmdays.com in a few weeks to find out what’s happening this year.
Combining local food and drink with music, the second Rootstock will be held on August 13 at Fallentimber Meadery in Water Valley. Hosted by the Food Water Wellness Foundation and Fallentimber, Rootstock will feature a four-course dinner (held in a tent) showcasing some of Alberta’s finest ingredients, prepared by chef David Cousineau. Signature cocktails from Eau Claire Distillery (Alberta’s first craft distillery), mead from Fallentimber and local craft beer will make up the liquid refreshments of the evening. After dinner, enjoy music performances by Reuben and the Dark, Gabrielle Papillon and Folk Road Show. Visit foodwaterwellness.org/rootstock for more information and to purchase tickets.
Prairie Gardens RGE RD Farm-to-Fork Dinners
No list of Alberta’s agritourism spots would be complete with Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm. Located near Bon Accord, Prairie Gardens has embraced the concept wholeheartedly: it is one of the province’s largest agritourism operations, and it’s hosted over one million visitors.
If you name it, Prairie Gardens probably has it: at the centre of its 35-acre farm is U-Pick produce, including various greens, potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, squash and heirloom pumpkins. Prairie Gardens also offers garden tours and a garden centre, and dozens of other family friendly activities, from a petting farm to corn mazes.
This summer, Prairie Gardens is hosting five farm-to-fork dinners in partnership with RGE RD, which will feature a variety of seasonal local foods, BC wines and cocktails. The dates are June 26, July 13, July 24, August 28 and September 11.
Other upcoming events at Prairie Gardens include the Fairy Berry Festival on July 30, 31 and August 1; Sweet Corn Fest on September 3, 4 and 5; and its annual Haunted Pumpkin Festival every weekend in October. The farm also hosts numerous other events throughout the year, as well as day camps, school field trips, seniors outings, youth groups, corporate events and weddings—so it’s a good idea to check in prior to planning your trip to find out what will be happening during your visit. Visit prairiegardens.org for more information.
Chinook Honey Company Viking Village: Horde at the Hive
Mead, or honey wine, is an ancient drink called “Nectar of the Gods” in Norse culture. With its bountiful honey farms, it’s only natural that Alberta would be home to several meaderies as well. Chinook Honey Company near Okotoks has grown from a two-hive acreage to a full apiary and meadery. On June 25 and June 26, Chinook is hosting its annual Viking Village, a celebration of mead and honey, featuring apiary and meadery tours, sampling of meads and honey products, as well as live-action Viking battle re-enactments.