Urban Farm Festival has strong debut

Westerner Park effort to connect urban residents to agriculture will be back next year

Westerner Park believes it has planted the seeds for ongoing success with its first Urban Farm Festival.

Organizers of the one-day event last Sunday set themselves the goal of opening people’s eyes to the potential for bringing farm living into urban settings.

“It was a huge success,” said Shannon Penny, Westerner Park marketing manager.

“Feedback about the event has been really positive from both exhibitors and guests. People were engaged and found value in attending.”

Penny said they were meeting on Tuesday afternoon to review the event and look at what can be done next year.

There is no question it will be back.

“Westerner Park will continue with our Urban Farm initiative and build on this year’s events by expanding on the educational component to support our community in growing, learning and connecting with their agricultural roots,” she said.

The event included free workshops and a trade show culminating in a “Taste of Home” Long Table Dinner in Westerner Park’s Holiday In Chalet. About 60 people turned out for the dinner of mostly locally sourced organic ingredients prepared by Chef Emmanuel of Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge.

Christine Sturgeon, Westerner Park’s agriculture event sales and production co-ordinator, said was a way to share its agricultural roots with the community.

“We want people to know where their food is coming from and understand the benefits of growing your own or supporting local vendors by buying their natural, homemade and home-grown products.”

Westerner Park employees pitched in and got their hands dirty to highlight that message through the Urban Farm project.

Red Deer County’s Steel Pony Farms helped to set up small gardens grown inside cedar wicking beds, which are designed to collect rainwater and feed plants from the bottom up to reduce the amount of hand watering required. The farm was set up in May on the infield of the race track.

Workshops drew on local expertise in bee keeping, urban chickens, canning and gardening.

The festival, which fell in line with Alberta Open Farm Days, a province-wide initiative to show people agriculture.

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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