Alberta Open Farms Days is an annual event that lets you see where your food comes from and meet the people who produce it. In Stettler, the event is called Taste of the Heartland, an appropriate name since it literally is a chance to taste the food produced in Alberta’s heartland, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the province. The day starts with fascinating educational tours of local farms where you can meet agricultural producers, ask questions and see their farms up close. It’s a chance to learn what it takes to produce the food we eat and what farmers are doing to ensure long-term sustainability, productivity and environmental responsibility. This event also includes a long table dinner on Mainstreet in Stettler. The dinner features locally-produced ingredients prepared by outstanding Alberta chefs. Taste of the Heartland is one of the most uniquely wonderful Alberta Open Farm Days celebrations in the province and it happens every year in Stettler.
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History of Alberta Open Farm Days
Alberta Open Farm Days began in 2012 with 46 farms that opened their doors to visitors. By 2019, the event had grown to 150 farms and over 40,000 participants who travelled around the province visiting farms and rural regions in the province. 2022 marked the 10th anniversary of this annual event, which has survived a pandemic and continues to promote agri-tourism and rural sustainability.
Taste of the Heartland in Stettler Starts with VIP Farm Tours
Farm tours in the County of Stettler No. 6 are a key part of the Taste of the Heartland. Most participants park at the county offices and board a chartered bus that takes them to each of the farms that have agreed to participate. The Stettler Regional Board of Trade works with Destination Stettler and others to organize the annual event. Each year, about four producers participate in the farm-to-fork VIP bus tour event. In 2022, the event included a cattle ranch, an alpaca farm, a winery/vineyard operation and a local company that does aerial seeding, fertilizing, weed and pest control. In 2019, the tour included a beef cattle ranch, a dairy farm, a honey farm and a Rhodiola farm. Every year you can experience different kinds of farms and learn something new. The farm tours take about 6 hours and lunch is typically included.
Benjamin Farms – 2022 Taste of the Heartland
Benjamin Farms was the first stop on the VIP Farm Tour in 2022. This purebred Simental cattle operation has been in the Benjamin family for five generations. In addition to cattle, the farm also produces crops and recently branched out to include quarter horses and Hangin’ Tree Cowdogs. The farm has been in operation since 1905 and includes 17 quarter sections of land. The visit was a chance to learn how a family farm operates today.
Wahlund Farm 2022 Taste of the Heartland
An Alpaca farm was the second stop on the 2022 VIP Taste of the Heartland Farm Tour. Wahlund Farm has llamas and alpacas and visitors to the farm got to see both species up close. “They look so goofy,” said another participant standing beside me. “I love it! How can you be upset when you’re looking at an alpaca?” She was right. They were fun to watch. The farmer explained that the llamas help to protect the alpacas from predators and sound the alarm when a predator is near.
Wetaskiwin Aerial Applicators – 2022 Taste of the Heartland
Lunch was supplied by Wetaskiwin Aerial Applicators, a family operated company that offers aerial seeding, fertilization and weed control. They flew overhead to offer a view of one of the airplanes in action.
Fireside Winery and Market Garden – 2022 Taste of the Heartland
Fireside Winery and Market Garden was the last stop of the 2022 Alberta Open Farm Days event in Stettler. This unique operation in Stettler County produces non-sulphur fruit wines from fruit and berries grown on their farm. They have almost every prairie fruit except gooseberries and they make incredible local wines that are sold at farmer’s markets, in restaurants and in stores.
Can You Take Your Own Vehicle on an Alberta Open Farm Days VIP Tour?
In 2022, most people rode on the comfortable motor coach bus that was provided to get to the farm tours. A few people chose to bring their own vehicles and follow the bus. In some cases, the choice to bring their own vehicle was because they felt uncomfortable being on a bus with other people because of the pandemic. Regardless of the reason, a few people took their own vehicles.
What to do Between the Alberta Open Farm Days Tour and Dinner?
There’s plenty to do in Stettler between the VIP farm tours and the long table dinner. One of the top recommendations is to check out the amazing shops in downtown. Stettler has a wide array of boutique shops that you won’t find anywhere else.
Heartland’s Signature Chef Competition
In 2022, Taste of the Heartland had some fun with the hors d’oeuvres. Two chefs competed for the title of Heartland’s Signature Chef of the Year. Each chef received a basket of ingredients (all known to the chef’s prior to the event) to be used in making hors d’oeuvres for Taste of the Heartland Long Table Dinner guests. At the event, up to 3 secret ingredients were provided and the chefs had to use at least one secret ingredient in the making of their respective dishes. Each chef created 130 bite-sized hors d’oeuvres on Main Street using 3 burner stoves. Long table dinner guests voted for the best dish and the winning chef was awarded the title.
Taste of the Heartland – Long Table Dinner
The Taste of the Heartland long table dinner is an event you won’t soon forget. Tables are set end to end right down Main Street. Alberta chefs create a 3-course plated meal using local ingredients. There’s also a variety of unique hors d’oeuvres. Local beer, wine and spirits are available for purchase. It takes a lot of work to put on an incredible meal like this. Several chefs and their staff work their magic in the kitchen. Many local people volunteer their time to set it all up, serve the meal and take it all down at the end of the day. The long table dinner is the highlight of the Alberta Open Farm Days Event.
Where to get Tickets for Alberta Open Farm Days Taste of the Heartland Events
You need to purchase tickets in advance if you want to attend the VIP guided farm tour and the long table dinner event. You can purchase tickets online on the Taste of the Heartland website. This event is so popular that it sells out. It’s a fun event and an incredible deal for what you get. In 2022, the VIP Farm Tour cost $25 and included motor coach transportation, snacks, lunch and tours of the farms. The long table dinner was $60 per person and a package that included the farm tour and the long table dinner was $75 per person.
Where to Stay in Stettler
Stettler has a wide variety of accommodation options for those who want to stay longer. The Ramada by Wyndham Stettler, Stettler Canalta, Super 8 by Wyndham Stettler and several B&Bs offer comfortable lodging.
Related: Looking for other things to do in Stettler? Check out our post about the Polar Express Train. Though the Polar Express is a Christmas tour, Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions operates all year round with many different train rides.