Agri-tourism operator looks to make hay when Alberta COVID restrictions lift
'I want to be the connector between the producer, the chef and the consumer'
Melissa Schur is running flat out.
"I'm a mother, I'm a wife, I'm a farmer, I'm a nurse and I'm an entrepreneur-slash-business owner," said Schur.
In her spare time, the 30-year-old can be found on the back of her favourite horse, Scarlet, trotting along the fields of the homestead.
Glen Park Holsteins is a dairy farm just south of Leduc, Alta., owned by Melissa's parents Rudy and Karen Gengler. There, the family milks 110 cows and tends about 300 acres of barley, hay and corn.
They have been working the land since 1998 but a few years ago Melissa and her husband Matt had an idea.
"Hey you know there's this old barn sitting there not being used," Melissa said. "Like what could we do with this?"
You can see more from The Old Red Barn on this week's Our Edmonton airing Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC TV and CBC GEM.
They hosted a long table farm dinner in 2017 and Melissa says their agri-tourism enterprise took off from there.
After a long pandemic-induced shutdown, The Old Red Barn will resume its farm dinners and picnic experiences in July when nearly all of Alberta's COVID restrictions are set to be lifted.
"It's been a very quick turnaround," Matt said. "We're almost having to play a little catch up because it's a couple of week's notice, and we're fully open."
In 2019, the couple landed a $97,500 grant from Western Economic Diversification Canada to expand their agri-tourism operation.
The grant and the downtime during the pandemic allowed them to put up a new building with a commercial kitchen and washrooms right next to the iconic 1950s barn.
"This really sets us apart, where you come here, there's like some awesome bathrooms, the kitchens right there, the chefs can come in and enjoy their experience," said the 37-year-old entrepreneur.
Matt says they have plans to open a farm store in the new space, operate a u-pick for corn and participate in Alberta Open Farm Days set for August 14-15, 2021.
The annual event draws visitors to agricultural destinations across the province. The Old Red Barn is one of more than 120 locations welcoming guests this summer, almost double the number of sites that participated last year.
I want to be the connector between the producer, the chef and the consumer. I want to be the person who brings everybody together all in one long table so they can learn more about where their food comes from," Melissa said.