Community Futures receives prestigious award

Community Futures Wild Rose (CFWR) announced on Oct. 5 that they are the recipient of a Marketing Canada Award from the Economic Developers Association of Canada (EDAC).

The Marketing Canada Awards competition is presented as an opportunity for individuals and organizations to be recognized for their efforts to further economic development.

CFWR was recognized with an award for its Recovery Project – Wild Rose Agritourism Innovation Challenge.

Wheatland County Reeve and Chair of CFWR Amber Link said the organization had been thrilled to be nominated, as well as to have been awarded.

“We are very excited. Even just the impact of the agritourism initiative itself really does help draw attention to all of the opportunities and to all of the tourism operators that we already have in the agritourism sector east of Calgary,” said Link. “I’ve heard directly from some of those entrepreneurs and operators of those businesses and it has had an impact on their businesses, so that’s so important to draw that attention to those businesses.”

CFWR has been working since 2016 to foster and develop diversity in the local agricultural sector by championing regional agritourism developments in conjunction with Alberta Open Farm Days.

In 2018 through 2019, a regional agritourism strategy was developed in order to leverage the momentum being experienced in the sector, as well as to strengthen the role of agritourism in diversifying local business and farm revenue sources.

The Agritourism Innovation Challenge was launched with the support of the governments of Canada and Alberta, which tasked participating businesses and organizations to build a micro-cluster by working with their neighbours and industry partners.

According to the final project report from the challenge, a total of 20 participants from across the region had registered in the program.

To support the participants in the challenge, CFWR developed six online courses consisting of case studies, lessons, activities, assignments and projects to facilitate their training and participation.

In addition to the online training, nine live video workshops were hosted on a weekly basis to further aid in the development of a strong regional network.

Regarding the launch of the program, Link credited Wendy Gerbrandt with having taken a leading role in getting the Agritourism Innovation Challenge off the ground.

“She (Wendy) is phenomenal. The level of commitment that she has to this region is extraordinary,” said Link. “She is very innovative, she is a collaboration builder for the region and between the municipalities.”

The website and succession programs still persist following the conclusion of the program. Details about the results, training videos, and the final reports are publicly available through the CFWR and Wild Rose Agritourism websites.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times