Ham it up: Edmonton zoo opening new urban farm

The Edmonton Valley Zoo is opening its doors to its upgraded urban farm on Saturday. It features Juliana pigs (miniature pigs), chickens, ponies, goats and baby doll sheep.

Zoo expects the Juliana pigs to steal the show

Hamlet and Ophelia, Juliana pigs, are expected to be a big hit at the zoo. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Hamlet and Ophelia scurry across the clean floors of the Edmonton Valley Zoo's new urban farm. The young Juliana pigs will eventually grow to about 50 pounds and starting tomorrow, people will be able to go visit and pet them at the zoo. 

The zoo's new barn-style exhibit is meant to teach people about farm animals and where food comes from. It's part of Nature's Wild Backyard, a $25-million dollar project to upgrade the zoo's 1959 design. 

The zoo is finishing up phase one, which included the revamp of the urban farm and an upgrade to the red panda exhibit. The red panda exhibit should be ready to open in about six weeks.

The second phase of the project is a complete makeover of the zoo's footprint.

People will learn how to brush and care for the animals, like this babydoll sheep, at the zoo. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The pigs are accompanied by a few other farm residents: chickens, a cat, ponies, rabbits, a babydoll sheep and goats. 

Operations supervisor Dean Treichel expects the Juliana pigs will be the most popular addition to the urban farm. 

The zoo worked closely with dairy, poultry and beef producers in Alberta on the exhibit.

"Anybody who comes here will learn where their food comes from and why it's so important to buy from a local supplier," Treichel said.

These chicks at the zoo are less than 24 hours old. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

"I think we are too far separated from that by just going to Safeway and getting all our food in a cellophane tray."

The zoo will be providing some educational programs at the urban farm, and they will be introducing more closer to the summer. The programs will teach kids things like how to brush and care for the animals.

As well, kids will be able to milk a fake cow, an exhibit sponsored by Alberta Milk. It also sponsored Moo at the Zoo — a dairy bar that will open up at the zoo and serve seasonal dairy treats like hot chocolate and ice cream. 

The zoo has outdoor pens the animals can go into. Visitors will be able to interact with the animals outside. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

"It's very important to us to educate consumers about the industry," said Kelsie Gilks, a representative with Alberta Milk. "It really supports jobs in the province and across the country."

The new animals have been at the zoo adjusting for the last week.

"It's amazing how quickly they settle into these new environments," Treichel said.

Dean Treichel, operations supervisor at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, says the new urban farm will help teach kids about where their food comes from. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The chickens started laying eggs, and some have already hatched. 

Though they haven't arrived yet, the urban farm will also include two Alberta beef cows — both speckled park cattle.

Treichel said he's hoping that more people are going to come out to see the farm. "It's a really good example of how we are moving forward with the facility."

The chickens have already started laying eggs at the zoo. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)