Open Farm Day showcases family operations behind food production in NB

Written by Brian Beaton on September 24, 2018

Corinne Hersey, Katelyn Copage and Mark Trealout (left to right) during Open Farm Day at the Hayes Urban Teaching Farm in Fredericton. Photo by Brian Beaton.

Every year, people have an opportunity to visit the farms where their food comes from. This year, farms across New Brunswick opened their gates for visitors on Sunday, Sept 16, to learn and experience the important work being done to provide safe, local food for families and their communities.

In late September, David Suzuki toured parts of rural New Brunswick, speaking about the importance of everyone’s shared relationship with the land, water, air and “all of our relations.” On September 22, he told a crowd in Elsipogtog First Nation: “Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.”

The Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick (AABN) that coordinates Open Farm Day provides a description for each of the farms participating in this year’s event. Farmers in the produce sector, diary, livestock, crops (blueberries, strawberries, etc.), vineyards, bees, maple sugar bushes, vegetable gardens, and nurseries, all came together to provide learning opportunities for their neighbours and others living in urban centres.

In total 28 farms in the province participated in this year’s Open Farm Day 2018. This number is down from the 33 in 2017 and a high in 2016 of of 55 farms sharing their work with people from neighbouring towns and homes.

Opening up these farming operations takes a lot of effort to prepare the barns, the crops, the animals, the activities and welcoming space for visitors. But the farmers who participate in this activity understand the importance of helping their neighbours learn about their work and operations.

The folks at the Hayes Urban Teaching Farm located in Fredericton began their day much earlier than their 9am opening so everything was ready for their guests. Displays, fresh vegetables for sale, tables and chores were prepared as the first family arrived with their young children to tour their neighbourhood farm just after the 9am opening.

Mark Trealout, Farm Manager/Instructor describes their farm as a market garden with vegetable and herb crops. A pilot 30-week full-time Regenerative Farming Certificate (RFC) program was launched in April on the Hayes Farm, a 7.5 acre heritage farm nestled in a residential Fredericton neighbourhood. According to the Agriculture Alliance of New Brunswick website: “The RFC program provides basic farm business and marketing training, and is further rounded out with field trips to a wide variety of successful farms, orchards, and nurseries in the area. This unique, accessible learning-to-farm program meets learners where they are and the agricultural practices taught are regenerative, human scale and relationship-based.”

At the Hayes farm on Open Farm Day, Mark along with Claire May and Katelyn Copage who are participating the RFC training, encouraged visitors to tour the gardens, answered endless questions about their irrigation system, their soil preparation, and their future plans, and to participate in the rotten vegetable toss, as well as recruited new farmers for their 2019 RFC training program.

The Hayes farm marketed their vegetables and herbs at the weekly Thursday night Fredericton market on Carleton Street until it closed at the end of August. They are now hosting a weekly stall at the UNB Campus market in the Quad behind the Student Union Building on Wednesday afternoons until late October. As well, they sold out their weekly “share of the bounty” offering very quickly.

The New Brunswick Census of Agriculture Report 2016 released in October 2017 claims that the number of farms continued to decline from 2,611 in 2011 to 2,255 in 2016. “New Brunswick generated $619 million in farm revenues (gross receipts) in 2016, up 12 per cent from 2011” clearly demonstrating the importance of this essential industry.

Farm tours, product sampling, milking cows, demonstrations, solar farming, mazes and wagon rides were just a few of the activities being offered on Open Farm Day at various farms across the province. The efforts of farmers to share and teach their immense knowledge with strangers is a wonderful opportunity for everyone.

Working the land, understanding the environment where they are located and the market they depend upon, and caring for their livestock, crops, families and communities takes a very special type of person. Farm families are such an important part of making these operations successful.

The various farm descriptions shared on the AABN website by the farmers for Open Farm Day highlight their important relationship with their families and their farm: “Our company is one of family. It has been in operation since 1982.” (Le Verger Goguen Inc.); “Family operated, growing grapes since 2005” (Richibucto River Wine Estate); “Family owned since 1973, beginning with apple production and morphing into what we are today, spirits, ciders, and fun stuff from the kitchen.” (Gagetown Distilling & Cidery); “Our family run farm is on a 150-year-old property, one of the original homesteads in the area. We raise double registered Alpaca for their fiber and breed for quality.” (Bridgadoon Fiber Farm Alpacas near Hoyt); “Family owned greenhouse, been in operation for more than 75 years, 6 acres of greenhouse, retail garden center and flower shop” (Scott’s Nursery Ltd., Fredericton); “Our 2nd generation farm was purchased 63 years ago from the Order of Salesian Priests.” (Shore-View Holsteins, Belledune); “We have owned and operated this farm since we completed college and took over Marco’s family farm in 1997.” (Overlake Holsteins, Dumfries).

At the next farmer’s market, be sure to inquire if the farm where the products you are purchasing were produced, was part of Open Farm Day. Let them know about your interest in visiting them at Open Farm Day 2019 when all of New Brunswick can celebrate and support the important agricultural industry providing food for everyone.

Brian Beaton was raised on a seven-generation dairy farm in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario. New Brunswick has been his home since 2013. This article was produced in collaboration with the RAVEN project (Rural Action and Voices for the Environment).

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