Farmers help bring Islanders closer to their food on Open Farm Day

Farmers across P.E.I. opened their barns, fields and pastures to visitors for Open Farm Day on Sunday to give people a chance to better understand where their food and drinks comes from.

28 Island farms, dairies and wineries welcome visitors for Open Farm Day

Islanders could visit 28 farms, including dairies, wineries, and potato farms, during Open Farm Day to see what it takes to produce the food they eat. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Farmers across P.E.I. opened their barns, fields and pastures to visitors for PEI Open Farm Day on Sunday to give them a chance to better understand where their food and drinks come from. 

This year, Islanders could visit 28 farms, including dairies, wineries and potato farms.

Nancy Sanderson, who took part in the event for the fourth time, owns Hope River Farms, which breeds sheep, pigs, chickens and ducks.

Nancy Sanderson, owner of Hope River Farm, says people don't have many opportunities to get a first-hand look at a farm. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

She said she feels people are disconnected from the food they eat today more than ever and while they often have questions about where their meals come from, they rarely get the chance to ask them.

"The odds of someone actually going onto a farm and having their questions answered and seeing it first-hand, those opportunities are becoming pretty rare," said Sanderson.

"I think it's important for us to step up and welcome the community and let them see what we do." 

'It doesn't just grow at the grocery store'

Sanderson led visitors on a tour of her farm, explaining each step of how she raises, cares for and processes her animals along the way.

Sandra Noonan took the tour while visiting from Halifax and said living in the city means she has few chances to learn about where her food comes from. She said she came to Open Farm Day to see what it takes to get food from the farm to her table.

Sanderson says she hopes each visitor walks away with a little more knowledge and appreciation for agriculture and small farms. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"I think it's really good for kids to know where their food comes from, that it doesn't just grow at the grocery store, and it's good for some adults too," said Noonan. 

Sanderson said she hopes each visitor walks away with a little more knowledge and appreciation for agriculture and small farms.

"It's nice for people to see all different types of farming," said Sanderson. "There's a lot of us out here and we're all doing things a little bit different, so if you can come out and have a look, all the better." 

For 24-year-old dairy farmer, Kaylin Buttimer, Open Farm Day is also about teaching people about how much work farmers put in.

Kaylin Buttimer says she comes from a long line of dairy farmers. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"Being a young farmer, it is tough, it's seven days a week and everyday, all day," said Buttimer. "But it's worth it for me… we love having having kids or parents or anyone come and ask us questions because that's how other people learn and other people know where their food comes from."

Bringing the farm to the city 

Islanders also had the chance to see that farming isn't reserved for the open fields and pastures in the country. The PEI Farm Centre Legacy Garden in Charlottetown invited visitors to stroll through rows of community gardens where people can rent plots of land to grow their own flowers, vegetables and fruit.

"Some people in the city may not have the opportunity to get out to a farm," said Robert MacPherson, a farm technician at the Legacy Garden.

"Bringing it here into the city of Charlottetown allows people to do that at a very local and easily accessible spot."

Robert MacPherson says it's important to show people what urban agriculture looks like. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

MacPherson said the event is a great way to educate people about where their food comes from, and more importantly, how to grow their own. 

"To allow people to see what urban agriculture looks like is important," MacPherson said. "We try to show people how they can grow food to feed their own family."

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Brittany Spencer

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Brittany Spencer is a multi-platform journalist with CBC P.E.I. Email: brittany.spencer@cbc.ca