Open Farm Days is a two-day agricultural celebration where farms and businesses across Alberta open their doors to the public. In 2016, many Central Alberta locations took part in the festivities on August 20th & 21st.
A commonality throughout Open Farm Days host locations is passion, and this farm did not disappoint. The Jungle Farm is filled with authentic family fun that has old and new farm favorites waiting around each corner. We were amazed at the amount of things to do at the farm and the quality of each experience. From their vast u-pick filled with new arrays of fresh produce each season to the giant play area, 8-acre corn maze and unique festivals this farm is a must-visit during Spring, Summer and Fall.
When we drove up to the farm, located 20 minutes south of Red Deer, we saw a picturesque red barn surrounded by quilted crops and rows on rows of fresh produce with families busy picking baskets full. We were greeted with open arms by Karen, a Jungle Farms staff who was excited to show us all the farm had to offer. It was evident right away that the staff at The Jungle Farm take pride in the farm and want visitors young and old to get the most out of their visit. Whether you have limited mobility and need a ride around their property on a golf cart or want to learn about how to pick a new vegetable – the staff are there to help.
The first thing Karen did was give us a tour of the crops – pointing out the squash, berry and vegetable fields. One important thing Karen emphasized was the seasonality of the farm’s produce. She says that because grocery stores carry produce grown out of country – lots of people do not have an understanding when certain produce is ripe for harvesting locally. Karen said that this is one of the reasons Open Farm Days is a wonderful event. It gives people the chance to see firsthand what local really means for Albertans. As Albertans, we all know weather can change frequently – this is particularly true in Central Alberta and directly affects agricultural communities like The Jungle Farm. Educating visitors about produce seasonality, the dependency on the elements, the growing process, and where food comes from is an important part of the farm’s philosophy. The Jungle Farm offers field trips during the Spring and Fall and sees over 1,500 school children. They also welcome preschool groups weekly – where the lesson grows with every visit. Karen says it’s neat to see the kids actively develop their understanding of how food grows and build positive community relationships with the farm and its staff over the weeks.
Karen then took us to their one-of-a-kind play area that children and adults are bound to enjoy. This limitless green space features four unique wooden play structures, a gnome forest, a hay bale maze, a massive pumpkin cannon, farm animals, ample running room and their awe-inspiring Strawberry Mountain equipped with a 60-foot slide (yes, you read that right – and it’s every child’s dream). These are just a few of the available activities, and they are constantly adding new ones to enhance the farm experience. The play area is open to visiting field trip groups throughout the summer and to the public on weekends from September 3rd to October 30th, 2016. Next on the tour was their 8-acre corn maze. Though we didn’t have the chance to get lost in the ten-foot tall corn, Karen explained to us that they have the corn maze open for the fall. Something that we thought was extremely neat about the corn maze is the Full Moon Maze events that they will hold on the evenings of September 16th and October 15th. The Farm will open the maze to the daring public so they can explore the maze by flashlight and moonlight!
On the topic of events, The Jungle Farm has an amazing amount of special events throughout their three harvesting seasons. In July they hold their Strawberry Festival with a sweet celebration featuring live music, wagon rides and a chance to make your own jam. This August saw a Feast to Field event with a dinner of smoked beef and Innisfail Growers vegetables, as well as a Progressive Dinner where The Jungle Farm was one of three stops around Central Alberta. September 17th, you can head out to the Farm for their Sauerkraut Festival and enjoy fresh, unprocessed sauerkraut! You can also join them for their Family Fall Festival on October 1st and their Extreme Power Tool Pumpkin Carving event on October 29th and 30th.
As we went on to our last stop of our tour, Karen mentioned that there are ways that customers are able to utilize the farm beyond the u-pick and events. They provide the surrounding area – even all the way to Calgary, the chance to indulge in every delicious morsel of produce through their Vegetable Box Program. This allows customers to receive a box of locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as recipes and preserves weekly! Another service that the farm offers is the opportunity for customers to pre-plant their summer flowers using the Farm’s greenhouse as a safe-haven from spring frost. The staff at The Jungle Farm make sure to take care of your pre-planted baskets so that once summer has arrived they are flourishing and ready to be taken home.
We ended our tour with a stop at their General Store, the hub of the farm. This classic red barn was filled with local trinkets and mouthwatering goodies – such as their famously delectable homemade strawberry shortcake! Of course, you could buy pre-picked produce that was grown on The Jungle Farm, but what was interesting and extremely nice to see was that The Jungle Farm’s General Store also had a variety of other local Innisfail Growers products as well as other products from Central Alberta. From jams to jewellery, the General Store has a wonderful array of local goods that show just how much they truly believed in supporting local businesses and agriculture.
Heading out to Alberta Open Farm Days at The Jungle Farm was a fun way to get closer to the produce we eat while enjoying a family day together and supporting a wonderful Central Alberta business.
Here’s just some of the produce The Jungle Farm grows:
- Saskatoon Berries
- Fall Strawberries
- Swiss Chard