Ashley Nelson feeding an animal in the petting zoo during the Urban Farm Festival at Westerner Park Saturday. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)

WATCH: Farming and urban living come together in Red Deer

You don’t have to live on a farm to grow your own food.

Central Albertans learned that during the second Urban Farm Festival at Westerner Park’s Agricentre Saturday, where agriculture and city-living were brought together.

The event grew significantly in its second year, said Christina Sturgeon, Westerner Park agriculture events sales and production co-ordinator.

“The first year we had six workshops and this year we’ve had 15 workshops. It’s kind of doubled in size … and so hopefully we can keep growing it as we move forward,” she said.

Sturgeon said event attendees particularly like the hands-on workshops: butter-churning, rainwater harvesting, extending the gardening season, and more.

Sturgeon said she wants the festival to be more than just a place people can learn gardening tips.

“We hope to encourage more people in the city to look more at what they can produce for themselves, and we hope to create a real educational space for food production and preservation,” she said.

READ MORE: The first Urban Farm Festival

Shannon Ruzicka, festival keynote speaker, is no stranger to growing and raising her own food. Ruzicka and her family, who live near Viking, east of Wetaskiwin, went an entire year living off their own land.

“We were already farmers and grow a big garden and raise our own meat, but it still wasn’t easy,” said Ruzicka.

Ruzicka said she and her family decided to go a year without buying food after reading her great-grandfather’s autobiography.

“He would talk about the hardships Europeans had when they came and settled in Canada,” Ruzicka said. “They’d walk thousands of miles and cut down trees to build their house … and I started to realize we’re such sucks. Let’s be real, we’re sucks.”

Ruzicka said she spoke at the festival to inspire Central Albertans who are interested growing their own food.

“We don’t need to rely on grocery stores, we don’t need to rely on big chains or be slaves to our own wants,” she said.

The festival is just one of things the park does to promote food production and preservation. Westerner has an urban farm site in the middle of its racetrack, where refugees can learn how to grow food in an urban setting in this climate. The park also holds a long table dinner every year with foods from the urban farm site and local producers.



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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Charity Briere leads a native bees workshop at the Urban Farm Festival at Westerner Park Saturday. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)

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