© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
People touring Malletdale Farm in York watch a cow, her name is Jen, tend to a young heifer during Open Farm Day last weekend. The heifer was born about 30 minutes before the picture was taken and happened in front of another group of Islanders touring the farm.
YORK — Islanders got to learn exactly where their food and other agricultural products come from during Open Farm Day.
That was literally the case for a small group of individuals touring Malletdale Farm, a fourth-generation family-owned farm in York which is operated by husband and wife duo Ben Mallett and Kathryn Harvey.
It was only shortly after the farm, one of 20 participating in the event on P.E.I., opened its doors for the public when one of the dairy cows began freshening. Mallett said while he was unsure at first how the group would react to the birth, the newborn had a welcome reception into the world.
“Most of them were pretty taken, there wasn’t anyone going ‘ew’,” he said.
“A couple of kids asked ‘what’s that?’ and things like that but they were very interested and there was nobody that was apologizing,” added Harvey. “I kind of thought we’d get people who would be a little funny about it but everyone was good.”
In fact, for the rest of the day much of the public’s focus was on the newborn calf and its mother.
However, many were initially drawn to the farm to see milking demonstrations, which were done in an older style tie stall barn with an upright silo and two grain bins.
The farm is very hands on, with every cow having a name. The new mother is known as Jen.
The couple’s children also help out on the farm.
Mallett had lived on the farm his whole life before marrying Harvey, who grew up on a dairy farm in Cape Breton, about five years ago.
“When we got married we took over the farm,” he said.
The operation has 80 heads of animal in total, including 40 milk cows. They also grow their own feed, which includes alfalfa a grass mix and barley.
While it was the farmers’ first time showing their operation in Open Farm Day, the two are not unfamiliar with the event.
“Usually we like to get out and tour around,” said Mallett.
Bobbi Ford, who was at the farm with her husband and their two young girls, said they were touring a couple of locations for Open Farm Day.
The purpose was partially for enjoyment but also education, she said.
“We live in the country and they (my daughters) have been in cow barns and everything but they’ve never seen a cow get milked before,” she said. “It’s a good learning experience and they can see where their food comes from and the work that’s involved.”
Harvey said she also feels the day serves an important role.
“People have to know where their food comes from. It’s scary to think it but there is a lot of people who go to the grocery store and think that’s where it comes from,” she said. “It’s nice for people to know it has to start somewhere. There are a lot of family farms and that’s their livelihood, we want to provide for people.”
A total of 107 farms in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick participated in Open Farm Day. The event was sponsored by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, provincial governments and agriculture awareness committees in the region.