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Busy summer winds down


As the field outside my window turns a golden shade, it reminds me summer’s warm days are numbered and harvest is on the horizon. It’s great to see the crop here still standing, considering the number of hailstorms that have swirled about.

My heart always goes out to those central Alberta neighbors who’ve seen their year’s hopes flattened by the ‘big white combine’.

Because summer is filled with such a variety of activities, I’m going to squeeze in a few this month.

It’s always encouraging to meet enthusiastic, young farmers. At Westerner Days, I had the chance to visit with Robyn Andersen, a goat producer from Rimbey. She’s a ‘jump in with both feet’ kind of gal, and has gone from her one rescued goat (thus her clever name Kid-napped Farms) to raising dairy breeding goats, becoming secretary of the Alberta Goat Breeders, and being part of the Westerner Goat committee. Red Deer’s fair has the only major goat show in the province now.

Claiming the ‘personality plus’ factor of goats got her hooked on the livestock, she points out both goat milk and goat cheese production are growing in the province. That was one of the reasons the dairy goat show at the Westerner showed significant growth.

“In 2013, we had four farms here, and this year we had eleven, so we doubled our entries, with three coming from Saskatchewan,” explained Andersen.

That has encouraged the Westerner committee to try and bid for the West National Goat Show for next year.

“Then we would have goats from Vancouver Island to western Ontario that will come. That would be huge for the dairy goat industry.”

Andersen has found an entry into agriculture outside the traditional realm. But she’s pumped about the opportunities she sees in goats and is eagerly promoting the business.

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Lacombe singer Gord Bamford has been in the spotlight this month with the tremendous success of his Charity Golf Classic, which raised a record $503,000 for his charitable foundation in this, the seventh year, for the event.

Community is as important to Bamford as family, and that’s why sharing his success has been a priority for the country talent, right from the start.

While his ‘community’ now is all of Canada, and expanding rapidly into the U.S., he remains very connected to his roots.

Not only does his foundation assist several charities in Lacombe, Bamford himself is a regular at many local rodeos, fairs and sporting events.

“Central Alberta always has a soft spot in my heart. I grew up here. It’s a farming community, my Grandpa was in rodeo, so there was a lot of that influence,” said Bamford.

He enjoys living here, and that gives him a valuable view which spawns songs such as his current release, ‘Where a Farm Used To Be’, which laments the problem of urban encroachment on agricultural land.

“It’s sure happening. From Lacombe, all the way to Red Deer, in the next ten or fifteen years, it may just be lots of houses and industrial areas. That’s just what happens, but it’s definitely why the song was written.”

Anthems like ‘Farm Girl Strong’ celebrate the rural lifestyle that Bamford sees all around him, and strikes a chord with his growing fan base.

He’s been known to call for neighbor’s combines or visit local work sites for shooting his music videos. He has plenty of help come running, from close to home and around the music industry, when he puts on his charity event.

Using his accomplishments to make a difference in other people’s lives is just one more reason to be proud of Central Alberta’s Gord Bamford.

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When you’ve had the privilege of growing up on a farm, it’s hard to imagine life any other way. But that’s an experience very few folks know these days. As the gap has widened between those making a living on the land, and those eating their work from the grocery store, there’s a lot more room for misunderstandings and mistaken assumptions.

Farmers in the province are trying to build bridges by opening up their doors to visitors, through the second Alberta Open Farm Days, happening this weekend August 23-24.

It’s not easy to get an everyday working farm in tip top shape for company, so kudos to those who have signed on to take part in hosting visitors. There are more than twenty farms to choose from right here in central Alberta. It’s a great chance for even producers to visit a different kind of operation. But it’s a first class educational opportunity for non-farm families to get a one-day feel for all farm life has to offer. Maps and farm descriptions are on the website www.albertafarmdays.com.

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The Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta is evolving from being a third party funder to becoming a real catalyst for growth in the agri-food industry. A chance to see this role in action comes at the brand new Summit Up! event in Olds next month.

Executive Director Bryanna Kumpula says while the twenty years of the Council’s past will be noted, this event is more about helping participants with real world challenges meet people who can help them advance their businesses. Rather than just hearing stories about how others have dealt with hurdles, Kumpula says the sessions are more hands-on workshops. They’re also featuring some of the organizations they’ve helped fund in the past. Because Summit Up! is being held in Olds, there will be working tours of entities like the Meat Research Centre, the Centre for Innovation and the new brewery at the Olds College. As well, one Learning Lab includes an on-farm tour of Innisfail Growers.

Sustainability is a major theme, and Kumpula points to another stream that will work with Ag Societies and other non-profits to see how they can go from being just a facility for rent, to explore other opportunities, so they can operate more like a business.

As a learning institute, the Council wants to provide a valuable session to a broad rural audience, to encourage profitability and economic growth. Summit Up! runs September 24th and 25th at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites in Olds.

Dianne Finstad is a veteran broadcaster and reporter who has covered agricultural news in Central Alberta for more than 30 years. From the Field appears monthly in the Advocate.

 
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