Living in Alberta should teach you one thing: farms and ranches are cool. So are u-picks and pumpkin patches. Fruit wineries too. In fact, it’s safe to say anything agriculture-related is special. We have an unspoken pride when it comes to the quality and strength of our agriculture, so much that we’ve no problem inviting people in to take a gander. Agri-tourism – the combination of agriculture and tourism – is about bringing the urban to the rural.
Here are a few informal reasons why agri-tourism is awesome. Number one, it’s a great alternative to expensive weekend outings. Reasonable prices and good value for money tend to be the norm for most agricultural experiences. Number two, there’s a nostalgic factor. If you didn’t grow up in a big city, agritourism feels a lot like going home and reaffirming traditional values. Number three and most important, what’s more Canadian than spending a weekend in the country?
Trust us when we say Alberta is home to quite a lot of exciting agri-tourism opportunities! According to the Western Producer, 73 farm festivals are held in Alberta each year. We’re home to Alberta Open Farm Days, the sprawling event where farms across the province open their doors to visitors. Touring the countryside for adventures, checking out a rural festival or spending a day or two on a farm or ranch is the perfect remedy for trapped urban dwellers. Supporting a local, homegrown industry by exploring everything a region has to offer – what could be better? Get in your car and go for a long drive through the province; there’s plenty to take in.
So let’s take a look at some of the great things you can get up to in a single weekend in Central Alberta. What destination hotspots should you check out in Lacombe County, Olds and Mountain View County?
There’s lots of adventure to be had in Lacombe County. Have you been to Kraay Family Farm lately? Home of the world-famous Lacombe Corn Maze, the farm has over 40 family-friendly attractions and a huge farmyard to boot! We’re talking pumpkin cannons, mini-golf, tire mountains, chicken shows, pig races (a great nod to the farm’s past raising pigs), slide barns, jumping pillows, duck races, barnyard twisters and challenge courses. There’s lots to do. Owner Rachel Kraay says the farm usually sees a ton of families, all eager to revisit the summer adventures of their childhood.
“I always tell people it’s like going to the fair when you were a kid. You have to do the playing, there’s nothing electronic.” she says. “It’s a full playing experience, shall we say, for remembering your childhood.”
So expect to go for several hours and watch the time fly by. Kraay Family Farm opens for the summer season on July 28th, 2018.
Want to go for a ride? Try out Flying Cross Ranch, a full-service riding stable – the perfect opportunity to give horse-riding a try. Kids enjoy the petting farm and practically everyone will enjoy taking a lesson or two in riding equestrian. Experienced riders will enjoy the thrill of riding through some scenic destinations.
“Flying Cross Ranch is not just about riding lessons, it is a place where people can come to build meaningful relationships and a sense of community.” The Flying Cross website reads. “It is a place for you to feel a sense of belonging, a place for family, where healing happens, and life skills are learned, where joy is experienced, where health returns and the stress of the world disappears.”
That’s quite a lot to say about a ranch, right?
Another ranch-tastic adventure lies in wait at Golden Willow Ranch. This free-range elk ranch offers an array of local products. From a delicious selection of elk meat, to velvet antler dietary supplements, to antler dog chews – you have lots to choose from. There’s something truly special about shopping local to buy elk products – it’s a very Albertan experience. Tours of the ranch are also available if you’d like to learn about the process of raising elk.
First things first – you can’t venture into Olds and not check out the college. You just can’t. So with that said, start off at the Olds College Botanic Gardens. It’s got three phases spread out over 25 acres and there’s a whopping 1.3 kilometres of pathways and trails throughout a beautiful assortment of peonies, lilies, roses, aquatics, an herb garden and more. From there, you can take a tour of the college farm, sprawling over 2,060 acres of land with plenty of crops, pastures and cattle. Then what? Hit up the market; stock up on fresh meats and sausages at the Olds College Retail Meat Store, grab plants during a sale at the Olds College Greenhouse and stop at the Olds College Brewery for a drink or two…
From there, you’ll want to head to the Olds Uptowne Market. It’s a one-stop shop with everything from local preserves sent straight from local greenhouse growers to fresh farm meat and local goods and produce. Name it and it’s probably at the Olds Uptowne Market, a solid rest stop for any traveller.
Mountain View County
PaSu Farm is our first stop in Mountain View County. Imagine rolling fields of sheep… lots of sheep… so many sheep you’ll have a tough time fitting them all into one Instagram shot! PaSu Farm utilizes every angle of agritourism; you get a great view of the Rockies. There’s a fantastic gift shop selling PaSU products such as woolen products, sheepskins, moccasins, footwear, quilts, shearlings and lotions, as well as high quality international wares. Lastly, PaSu Farm serves up amazing meals in their restaurant built to please; with huge windows and tons of natural light, you’ll get a fresh view of Rocky Mountain farmland like you never thought possible.
But the weekend’s not over yet! You gotta find a general store to stock up on important last-minute items for the return drive. We suggest taking a trip to the Bergen General Store. It’s served the neighbourhood for 70 years and their world-famous beef jerky is known across the region. Beef jerky is an essential item for any road trip and no one understands this better than the folks at Bergen General Store.
So with that said, get in your car and go! We can’t wait to see what great agritourism adventures you get up to in Central Alberta!
Feature Image Photo Credit: Curtis Comeau/Government of Alberta
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