On August 26, 2012, Mack and I took part in the Greater Edmonton Alliance’s Farming in the City guided bus tours. Organized to increase awareness about the pristine farmland we currently have in Edmonton, in an effort to ensure it remains farmland as City Council considers the Food and Agriculture Strategy on October 26. Though it wasn’t our first time in the area (we took part in the Great Potato Giveaway and have been to Riverbend Gardens in the past), it was a different experience to visit the farmland as a part of a collective group. Tickets were just $10, quite a steal considering the day they planned for us.
We took the LRT to Northlands, a partner for the tours. For an event about promoting sustainability, it was odd that the organizers only had signs directing those who drove to the pick-up site, and not for those who took public transit. We couldn’t see the buses from the mouth of the LRT station, so did a fair bit of wandering around the massive Northlands parking lot before we came upon the site.
Anyway, we were happy to discover the first bus of the day was full (8:30am on a Sunday morning wouldn’t have been our first choice, but with Blink: Urban Picnic to follow, it was our only option). It also turned out the rest of the buses were equally well subscribed, to the point where the organizers were turning people away! In total, around 400 people took part in the 10 bus tours throughout the day, quite a feat considering the number of competing summer festivals going on.
It was also a particularly impressive volunteer effort, with enthusiastic, dedicated members of our community lending their time to this cause. Our tour guide, for example, is a student attending the University of Alberta.
Volunteers like Joveena helped run the event!
The bus took us through five different farms in Edmonton’s north east, though we only stopped to visit three of them. The first of these stops was Horse Hill Berry Farm.
I never knew this little gem of a u-pick farm existed! David and Jackie Clark grow half a dozen varieties of raspberries on ten acres, and are open from late July to late August every year.
Jackie Clark of Horse Hill Berry Farm
We were actually there on their last weekend of operation, but could still spot many juicy berries between the brambles ripe for the picking. Jackie encouraged us to not only wander the neat rows of raspberry plants, but to help ourselves to the fruit!
Neat rows of raspberries
Our second stop was Norbest Farm, a potato farm. Owner Gord Visser was on hand to greet all of us as we departed the bus, and had a surprise for the group – fresh hand cut fries made from his potatoes!
Another batch for the fryer
Mack loves his potatoes
We were also able to each take home a bag of potatoes, so we could further taste the kind of produce the land supports.
Last but not least, our final bus departure took place at Riverbend Gardens. We were given an hour at this lush farm, which seemed to give everyone a leisurely opportunity to explore a part of the fields, take in the gorgeous views and enjoy the free corn that was being handed out!
Riverbend Gardens is located right next to the North Saskatchewan River
Will stop for corn
Janelle chats with Global about her farm
Among the cabbage
Riverbend Gardens has 120 acres of farmable land, and currently sell their produce at 7 farmers’ markets in Edmonton. But special for that day, owners Janelle and Aaron Herbert set up a produce stand right at the farm, so attendees could not only see the variety of vegetables grown, but to also purchase some to try for themselves!
Freshly picked veg
It was a great way to spend three hours on a summer morning – getting to know our farmland, our farmers, and some other Edmontonians who are committed to preserving our city’s food future. Thanks to the Greater Edmonton Alliance for putting this event on, and to all of the volunteers for making it happen!