Red Deer will become a heritage livestock hot spot Nov. 22 and 23, when the annual Urban Farm Show returns to Westerner Park.
The event, which is organized by the Canadian Heritage Breeds Association, showcases the types of animals that were once common on farms but have given way to the commercial breeds favoured by large industrial ag producers. Some of those heritage breeds existed centuries ago.
Kathy Stevenson, a director with the non-profit association, said there will be a “vast array” of heritage chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese at the Urban Farm Show, as well as sheep, goats, cattle and pigs.
“With Canadian Heritage Breeds we’re trying to incorporate and build interest in all of the breeds of livestock that were common 100 years ago.”
This year’s Urban Farm Show is of particular significance because it’s being held in conjunction with the Canadian National Poultry Show. It marks the first time the Canadian National Poultry Show, which is governed by the American Poultry Association, has been held in Alberta. Exhibitors from British Columbia, Manitoba and even farther way are expected to take part.
Attendees at the Urban Farm Show will see a broad range of heritage breeds, especially when it comes to poultry, said Stevenson.
“There is going to be row upon row of cages with different types of poultry: chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese — little ones and big ones, and all the colours you can imagine.”
The Canadian Heritage Breeds Association came into existence four years ago. It has members from across the province and beyond, but Central Alberta has been particularly active when it comes to raising heritage breeds.
“I think the interest is really growing in this area and there are a lot of people interested in getting back into some of those original, traditional breeds for their farms and acreages,” said Stevenson. “It’s really encouraging to see that happening.”
Preserving heritage breeds is important for more than reasons of nostalgia, she said. Unlike many of their successors on today’s farms, heritage breeds tend to thrive outdoors, are less reliant on humans for their survival and have long reproductive lifespans.
“It’s all about preserving those special characteristics of health and vigor and disease tolerance — the things that we don’t see in the commercial breeds nowadays,” said Stevenson. “We still need to have those breeds to go back to.”
In addition to displays of heritage animals, the Urban Farm Show will feature a trade fair, as well as a petting zoo and other activities for children. With admission just $5, and free for children under 12, the goal is to draw lots of people and increase the public’s awareness of heritage breeds and their importance, said Stevenson.
“That’s what we’re hoping is to get the public coming and learning that there are more than just brown and white chickens”
Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The Urban Farm Show takes place in the Agricentre Pavilion.
For more information or to book a place at the trade fair, go to www.canadianheritagebreeds.com.