Saturday on the Experimental Farm

I’m never one to miss a federal government open house. Perhaps it’s due to my fond memories of open houses at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters where my father worked when I was a kid. So when the signs went up earlier this summer for the 100th anniversary open house at the Experimental Farm, I made sure to note the date and plan a day around it.

Catherine is still recovering from the GST Centre open house in Summerside a decade ago – somehow she wasn’t as entranced as I was by the amazing machines that could slit open envelopes – and so it was to be a father-and-son outing (as Oliver added later: what does Catherine need with a farm open house, having grown up on one).

The Experimental Farm, while founded in Charlottetown in 1909, has been shifting its research operations to Harrington, 30 minutes out of town toward the north shore, in recent years, so the focus of the open house was not in Charlottetown but out at the satellite operation.  Although you could drive out to Harrington, Agriculture Canada also chartered double-decker buses to take people from the farm in Charlottetown out to Harrington, a rare and brilliant move that let a lot of people without cars make a trip they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise (while the double-decker buses are intriguing, they are not perhaps the least-polluting people-carrying vehicles on Island roads and I hold out hopes for the 125th anniversary that we downtowners will be transported out on pollution-free hover-chariots).

Once we got to Harrington there were myriad things to see and do. There was a free barbeque (with uncommonly tasty 100th anniversary cake), kids activities, wagon rides, a hay maze, bugs and slugs to look at, and innumerable scientific posters on the various ills that can afflict Island crops.  There were even competing costumed giant potatoes wandering about battling for the affections of the young.

Along the way I actually ended up learning a lot about the history of the Experimental Farm, aided, in no small way, by a well-crafted introductory video that was shown in Charlottetown while we waited for the bus.

Although the 100th anniversary open house only comes around once, there was promise of an every-second-year open house on a smaller scale, so be sure to look out for the signs in 2011: highly recommended.