Your chance to spend some time on the farm this summer

AFA-Banack Open Farm Days Tent

Open Farm Days visitors learn about, and see, the grains grown on the Banack farm.

Consumers continue to be tremendously interested in how their food is grown. Getting farm producers and consumers together is one of the goals of Alberta’s Open Farm Days. This annual event provides an important connection for rural producers and their urban neighbours.

Open Farm Days also continues to be a popular event for farm producers, with a 28% increase in host farm participation when compared to last year. For 2016, a total of 90 host farms will provide real-world farm experiences for visitors on Sunday, August 21.

Once again, our Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Vice President, Humphrey Banack and his family will be participating as a host farm. Humphrey and wife Terry Banack will welcome visitors to their Camrose-area homestead and will provide information and demonstrations for those who attend.

“Open Farm Days is a very important event in Alberta,” says Humphrey Banack. “People come with questions and a real open interest in agriculture. Traceability and social license are hot topics for today’s consumer, and Open Farm Days allows us to have that important conversation with members of the public.”

8-AFA-Banack Open Farm DaysHumphrey and Terry say that Open Farm Days lets them provide visitors with a ‘mini-adventure’ with a hands-on look at how food is produced nearby in Alberta communities. This year, the Banacks hope to take visitors out harvesting and send them home with a bag of peas straight from the field that they can use in recipes at home. Check out this video for more information.

Host farms that offer Open Farm DaysFarm Experiences” showcase a wide range of farm businesses including honey and berry farms, petting zoos, flower farms, plus more traditional agricultural enterprises like livestock, crop and vegetable farms.

Open Farm Days also includes farm-to-table “Culinary Experiences” taking place on August 20 and 21. These events feature local chefs and producers that team up to provide unique field dinners, brewery tasting tours, cowboy gatherings and barbecues. Most of these events require ticket purchases in advance. Information can be found at http://www.albertafarmdays.com/.

“We understand how important it is to connect with the consumers of our product,” Banack says. “Open Farm Days gives us the opportunity to allow visitors to see exactly what we do, where we fit into their food system and how we are part of what they put on their tables everyday.”

This AFA video taken during Alberta’s 2015 Open Farm Days event on the Banack Homestead shows what visitors can expect from a farm visit.

We encourage you to make this fun event part of your summer plans!

Celebrate agriculture in Alberta with Open Farm Days 2015!

Is anything better than spending a beautiful summer day in the country, enjoying the best that Alberta farms have to offer?

On August 22 and 23, thousands of Albertans did just that. During the third annual Alberta Open Farm Days, Albertans experienced farming up-close and personal, and learned about the farmers who grow their food. Visitors were encouraged to explore rural farms, watch demonstrations about how farms operate and/or attend an amazing array of culinary events across the province.

With over 70 farm locations, there was plenty to see and discover. This included alpaca fibre demonstrations, meat shop tours, winery tours and tastings, u-pick berry operations, garden tours and mazes, beekeeper tours, livestock experiences, farm machinery displays, dairy tours and tastings and much, much more.

AFA 2nd Vice President Humphrey Banack and his wife, Terry, participated again this year. They are owners of a 109-year-old family homestead and grow 5,000 acres of grains and oilseeds near Round Hill, Alberta, close to Camrose. On August 23, they had their harvest equipment on display, and treated visitors to a ride on a combine while harvesting peas.

“We love Open Farm Days,” says Banack. “This is one of the best ways to connect urban folks with their rural neighbours. Not only is it fun for us to show off how our farm operates, but it’s such a great way to educate people about how food is produced right here in Alberta. People who visited today got to take home a bag of peas to use in their cooking. It’s that farm-to-fork experience we all talk about.”

Alberta Open Farm Days is a collaborative effort between the Alberta Government, Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies, Travel Alberta and the Ag for Life initiative.

On Saturday August 22, 2015, talented Alberta chefs teamed up with farmers and rural communities to offer culinary events like long table dinners, corn roasts, barbeques, county fairs and other special events throughout the province. Tickets and reservations were required for events scheduled on Saturday. More information, and a list of events, can be found on the ‘Culinary Experiences’ section of the Alberta Open Farm Days website here.

On Sunday August 23, 2015, more than 70 Alberta producers opened their farm gates to offer a first-hand look at the important contribution agriculture makes to our province. Admission was free on Sunday, and a list of participating farms can be found here.

Here are a few photos from the Open Farm Days event on Sunday, August 23, 2015 at the Banack homestead in Round Hill, Alberta.

AFA-Open Farm Days Banack Farm 2015

The Open Farm Days sign welcomes visitors to the Banack farm near Round Hill, Alberta.

AFA-Humphrey Banack

Humphrey Banack feels Alberta’s annual Open Farm Days is an important way to connect producers with their rural and urban neighbors.

AFA-Banack Open Farm Days Tent

Open Farm Days visitors learn about, and see, the grains grown on the Banack farm.

AFA-Terry Banack on Open Farm Days

Terry Banack shows visitors the canola plant and its seeds. She also displayed products made from canola.

AFA-Banack Open Farm Days

Terry Banack brings two boys from the city inside their farm equipment.

AFA-Humphrey Banack Combine

An Edmonton family gets a ride in the Banack combine.

AFA-Humphrey Banack Combine

Visitors to the Banack farm during Open Farm Days got to ride with Humphrey Banack and harvest peas.

AFA-Humphrey Banack Peas

Families riding with Banack in the combine got a just-harvested bag of peas to take home.

Visit the Alberta Open Farm Days website at www.albertafarmdays.com to also see videos from this and past years, photos and a wide range of information on this great farm event.

For our farm readers: if you are interested in becoming a host farm in 2016, or holding a culinary event, the application deadline for the 2016 Open Farm Days is June 30, 2016.

New water project welcome news for farmers

It’s no secret that water-related events can have a devastating impact on agriculture. Whether it’s a catastrophic flood, wet fields at seeding time or extended drought, farmers are often faced with either too much water or not nearly enough.

What’s more, science lacks a solid understanding of why these events occur. For Camrose-area farmer Humphrey Banack, it’s hard to pick an issue of more direct importance to farmers.

“With recent disastrous water events in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, we all know how devastating flooding can be,” says Banack. “Although the attention sometimes centers on the impacts to urban properties, water-related events can be a major risk for primary agriculture, too.”

As a farmer managing 5,000 acres, Banack has had his share of battles with insufficient or excess moisture. He recalls the wet spring of April 2011 in the Camrose area as one of the worst.

Now, as 2nd Vice President with the Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA), Banack is involved in a new, large-scale effort to remove some of the mystery surrounding water events in rural Alberta.

On March 17, 2015, Member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin Blaine Calkins, on behalf of Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, announced $1.3 million in federal support for AFA to develop a unique computer model that will better identify the risk and impacts of overland flooding and drought in agricultural areas. Federal funding is being provided through the AgriRisk Initiatives program.

The project’s focus will be to construct and showcase a suite of complex hydrologic models to assess interactive water movement throughout the South Saskatchewan River Basin. Under each water‐related risk assessment, the model will build maps that define risk zones within the study area. The model will then quantify the frequency, geographical extent and severity of water-related events.

To execute the project, AFA will team up with private consultants experienced in agriculture risk and with world-renowned hydrologic and climate change scientists to generate the computer simulation model. The three-year project will begin April 1, 2015 and continue through March 31, 2018.

Banack notes that this project fits perfectly with AFA’s mandate. As Alberta’s largest producer-funded general farm organization, AFA supports a sustainable agriculture industry with viable farm incomes. The data collected under this project could contribute to better flood risk analysis and eventually lead to the development of overland flooding insurance products. Spearheading effective farm risk management tools for farmers is a key priority area for AFA.

“Many people don’t know that Canada is the only G8 country where overland flooding is not an insurable risk,” Banack says. “The federal funding provided to AFA will allow us to begin immediately in addressing the important area of water and risk assessment in agriculture, potentially paving the way for practical insurance solutions for producers.”

March 15-21 is Canadian Agricultural Safety Week

Farm businesses are a complex combination of highly specialized and technical equipment. Growth in a farm business can also increase the number of people who are involved in that business.

Tragically, in a few cases, all this can add up to fatalities and injuries. In Canada, too many people die in farming accidents each year. Many of those incidents are preventable.

Humphrey Banack, Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) 2nd Vice President, says agriculture has been identified as a ‘high risk’ industry, and even one death or serious injury is too many.

“We’re an industry that operates in our own backyard,” says Banack, whose family farms 5,000 acres near Camrose. “Safety on farms is critical. I know neighbors who have been injured, and even killed, on farms. We have to look at safety and plan to be safe.”

Banack and his wife, Terry, feel passionate about farm safety. In 2014, they joined nine other Alberta farmers to volunteer-test a pilot safety program being developed by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD). The pilot encouraged farmers to document their farm safety practices as a way of managing safety risk on the farm.

Banack says because there are a lot of moving parts with a farm business, it can sometimes be a challenge to teach someone new about the wide variety of safety protocols on a farm. That’s why the Banacks have created a written farm safety plan, and encourage other producers to do the same.

“It’s not something you do once and it’s done,” he says. “A good on-farm safety plan is constantly being updated as the farm business grows and evolves.”

Banack says the AFA Board will continue to push for progress in the area of farm safety. AFA is actively involved in initiatives like those being brought forward by ARD to improve our province’s farm safety record.

Banack also recommends that producers check out the information available through Canadian Agricultural Safety Week which occurs March 15 through 21, 2015. This annual public education campaign focuses on the importance of safety in agriculture and provides producers with resources and information to make their farms safer.

More information on Canadian Agricultural Safety Week can be found at www.agsafetyweek.ca. For videos featuring the Banacks speaking about farm safety, visit the Alberta Federation of Agriculture YouTube Channel and click on the videos in the ‘AFA In The News’ playlist.