A “homestead” in the city and a new training ground for young farmers will be open to the public as part of Family Farms Day on Sunday.
The ACRD’s eighth annual tour of local growing samples a variety of farms and gardens, some of them perennials on the tour — such as Arrowvale Farm and Coleman Meadows Farm — and others new to the circuit.
Visitors to the farms can sample produce while learning how the food is grown. The 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. tour is popular with families, giving children a chance to meet four-legged residents. For a brochure and map, visit www.acrd.bc.ca or go to the ACRD office, Echo Centre or Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s really a great opportunity to meet some in the farming community and visit some beautiful properties that most of us don’t normally see,” said Heather Shobe of the ACRD’s What’s On Your Fork program.
Pamela Welgan and Jorge Barandiaran, Pineo Road “homesteaders,” welcome visitors to their orchard and vegetable garden, a work in progress but a vision of what city dwellers can achieve on smaller plots.
Off Franklin River Road, the new Shelter Farm Training Institute marks its first year in full-scale production and training. A partnership between North Island College and Port Alberni Shelter Society, the market garden program is graduating its first crop of agrarians.
“We’ve got eight students in the program right now,” said instructor Guy Langlois. “They’re looking forward to starting their own farms and gardens. Some will be based at this farm through our incubator program.”
While the tour is largely a celebration of growing food in the Valley, Langlois pointed out there is an underlying concern about the future of food production.
“We’re in pretty desperate straits here in the Alberni Valley and probably throughout Vancouver Island in that there is very little produce grown here,” he said.
Langlois would like to see that change and feels the Valley would benefit from a unified farmers market similar to those that have found success in the Comox and Cowichan valleys.
This year’s tour also includes Hupacasath Community Garden and Cottonwood Farm.
The Alberni Valley Bulldogs will volunteer their support at the farm venues. As many as 600 people have shown up at one farm during the day.