The 13th annual Winkler Heritage Society banquet put the spotlight on small farms.
Kalynn Spain of Small Farms Manitoba toured 80 small farms in four months, and spoke with over 100 farmers. She says whether selling beef, potatoes or wool, all small farms have one thing in common, building relationships with the people who eat the food they produce.
To help farmers connect with their customers, she created the website smallfarmsmanitoba.com, which now connects 134 members with each other to share ideas and new solutions to old problems. Meeting as many farmers as possible, Spain says she creative new ideas, whether it was grazing pigs or community shared agriculture which essentially pre-sells produce to the customer.
Through the website she hopes to connect consumers and restaurants with farms that are transparent about their business.
"Everybody needs to know about these farms," Spain says, adding transparency in what they are doing is the foundation they build that trust with customers.
Of the 134 members she says 47 get nearly all of their income from farming. She also sees the next generation excited to take up farming, with 21 members under the age of 35.
"We see a lot of young people who are saying, "I want to farm, so I am going to try it,"" Spain says.
The night was also a chance to shed a light on the on-going work of the Heritage Society. Board Chair Randy Ritz explains the society continues their mission to recognize pioneers and preserve the historical artifacts of Winkler.
"What I like is to go back and see how things were before I was born," Ritzy says. "It kind of opens your eyes sometimes to the way things were done differently."
The society was founded in 1999 and opened the Winkler Heritage Museum in 2012 in the Southland Mall. Since then it has upgraded to a larger space in the mall The society also operates the Heritage Society Archives in the Winkler Library and attracts people from far and wide researching their past. The archives assist others in research with over 1800 items of newspaper clippings, paper documents and photographs.
The Stones and Stories project began in 2010, a major undertaking for the archives, which includes documenting the many gravestones at the Winkler cemetery, and matching each with a picture and a short story of the life the stone represents. So far the project contains 600 completed stories available for viewing at the museum and Winkler Library.
"Everybody is doing a tremendous job and the optimism is very high," Ritz says.