24 August, 2009

Backseat Adventure - Bowden Sunmaze

Hot summer Saturdays are made for running through fields.  As long as you don't have any real work to do, of course, other than chasing toddlers through sunflowers. This past weekend we took friends of ours out to the Bowden Sunmaze.

Good city folks who don't have much in the way of a yard and whose outdoor experiences focus on hiking and fishing they oohed and ahed at the countryside North of Calgary.  They showed their kids how corns grows (after some considerable debate by us parents on the purpose of the grassy/flowery part on the top of the stalk), we tested raw sunflower seeds, ran through the fields, pet the donkeys, and had a picnic.  And all this a mere hour away from the city.

The Bowden Sunmaze is owned by Eagle Creek Farms.  Part of the Innisfail Growers they produce a variety of vegetables to sell at various Alberta Farmers Markets. You can also come to the Sunmaze and U-Pick vegetables and flowers.  They have potatoes, onions, beans, chard, kohlrabi, turnips, carrots, lillies, zinnias, grasses, and so much more. And don't forget the garlic, Farmer John's speciality.

Of course, U-Pick is great, if you have the energy after tearing around after 4 little ones through both the sunflower and two corn mazes. Sadly, we did not. But we did get some fresh garlic in the store and visiting John at the Calgary Farmers' Market the next day. But The Monster has been asking about the donkeys and the sunflowers so a return trip might be necessary in the coming week.
The Sunmaze is a perfect example of agro-tourism.  If you build it they will come.  Families and tourists come for the maze, and leave with arms laden with veggies and flowers.  This includes the carloads of Chinese tourists there the day we went and the numerous families chasing each other through the maze.  And hopefully those people will start visiting the market if they don't already just because they remembered that the Eagle Creek folks would be there.

The set-up is wonderful.  Beyond the flush toilets for the city folks, there is a defined picnic area complete with tables, and all surrounded by a menagerie of animals to entertain the little ones. There is nothing gimmicky - unless you count the mazes themselves - to bring people in. There are no bouncy castles, animal races, or balloons - all irrelevant on the farm but popular for bringing in families.

All our kids were terribly excited to watch the lambs and calves, try to pet the donkeys, and risk a peck in order to have the chickens take a piece of grass from their hands.  Sure, it isn't the down and dirty of real farm work, but I think these are all valuable experiences for them. Like I said, next time we'll take them in the fields. And The Monster already understands that that calf will grow up to be her steak. She still says moo when calling it, but in the next breath she'll ask which cow we're having for dinner.

As our afternoon wound down and the kids started demanding their naps we took one last wander through the property, with me itemizing the U-Pick opportunities that would be easy for kids (onions and beans), we all commented on the luxury of the experience.  Even our box-store grocery shopping friends took the time to explain some food production to their kids (and each other).  We remarked at how easy it is to have an experience like this so close to the city.  And we left with some fresh garlic. Some very strong, make any Ukrainian or Italian proud garlic.


Sharon said...

I've only ever been to a corn maze - the sunflower variety looks beautiful!

Kristilyn said...

It does look beautiful! I've only been to a cornmaze as well ... this one probably smells really nice, too. :-)

I should remember to find a field to run through on the next sunny day ... sounds like fun!


Anonymous said...

Sun maze - what a wonderful idea!

The Messy Baker said...

Love the idea of a sunflower maze! Getting lost amidst all those sunflowers would be divine.