Christina Sturgeon, Ag Event Manager at Westerner Park. (Photo By LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Westerner Park’s Urban Farm Initiative is taking root

An indoor farmers market and locally sourced dinner is planned

Westerner Park is officially becoming the spot where urban meets rural.

Westerner Park kicked off its Urban Farm Initiative last spring by planting a garden in the field in the middle of the chuckwagon race track. Ag events manager Christina Sturgeon said 100 per cent of the vegetables now growing there will be turned over annually to the Red Deer Food Bank.

The point isn’t just to give back to the community, but to demonstrate that city residents can become their own food producers, she added. “We want to share what we know about growing local food.”

An Urban Farming booth is set up at the back of the Stockmens Pavilion during Westerner Days. It will be staffed by volunteers from ReThink Red Deer, who on weekday evenings and next weekend, will answer fair-goers’ questions about backyard gardening, composting, urban chickens, and other topics.

With about 100,000 people expected to attend Westerner Days, Sturgeon thought it was a perfect opportunity to help educate about where food comes from — how it’s grown or raised.

Two other special events are also being planned for Aug. 20 at Westerner Park.

An Urban Farm Festival will be held in the Prairie Pavilion in partnership with Peavey Mart and Red Deer County. Sturgeon said it will be a chance for local food producers to sell directly to the public — sort of an indoors farmers market. There will be workshops and demos on such things as canning, pickling, urban beekeeping and chicken raising. These are free of charge, but those interested in attending should pre-register by visiting ticketsalberta.com.

Since Westerner Park has strong roots as one of the largest ag societies in Alberta, Sturgeon said there’s no better way to showcase this commitment than through a celebration of food.

After the festival, a Taste of Home Long Table Dinner, co-presented by Holiday Inn at the Westerner Park Chalet, will feature a menu of locally sourced ingredients, combined by Chef Emmanuel David. Dinner tickets are $100 each from the same website.

Sturgeon believes there’s often a “disconnect” between the packaged foods people buy at a grocery store what actually goes into the food production process. She hopes to make Central Albertans more aware and appreciative of the contributions of human producers, as well as the animals that are part of it.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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