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Things are in bloom for this new farmer, right in the heart of St. John's

Heather Rumancik spent Sunday morning tending to her crop of dahlias. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC - image credit)
Heather Rumancik spent Sunday morning tending to her crop of dahlias. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC - image credit)
Heather Rumancik spent Sunday morning tending to her crop of dahlias.
Heather Rumancik spent Sunday morning tending to her crop of dahlias.

Heather Rumancik spent Sunday morning tending to her crop of dahlias. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC)

A soggy Sunday marked N.L. Open Farm Day, an annual event where select farms across Newfoundland and Labrador allow visitors to take a peek behind the picket fence, explore the land and see the work that goes into getting their food on the table.

The 200-year-old O'Brien Farm, nestled in the hills of St. John's, was among the properties participating this year. Others postponed as the rain poured down early in the morning.

For some, it was a typical day working the land. In a field near the O'Brien property, Heather Rumancik was tending to her dahlias.

"I'm focusing on growing flowers and also a side of vegetables. And I'm also interested in learning to grow flowers that I can use as dye plants to dye fabric," Rumancik told CBC News as the rain began to let up.

This is Rumancik's second planting season as part of the New Found Farmers program, which helps people get a start in farming.

On Sunday the historic O'Brien Farm was open to the public for the annual NL Open Farm Day.
On Sunday the historic O'Brien Farm was open to the public for the annual NL Open Farm Day.

On Sunday the historic O'Brien Farm was open to the public for the annual N.L. Open Farm Day. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC)

She works in film and theatre as a lighting technician, so adding farming seemed like a good idea to have on the side, she said.

"I just wanted to live more seasonally and get in touch with nature and do something for me. So yeah, this is my hobby," Rumancik said while laughing.

She said it's exciting to have a place like O'Brien Farm — in the heart of St. John's — that also feels so far removed from the bustle of the city.

"People can experience this and kind of get in touch with nature and just see that you can grow things here," she said. "Yeah, I think it's amazing."

Exploring the land

The farm was in the O'Brien family for generations. It's last farmers were three brothers: John, Mike, and Aly. In 2011 the O'Brien Farm Foundation was created to preserve and keep the property as an operating farm.

Heritage programming officer Mackenzie Collett said on N.L. Open Farm Day people can explore the working farm as well as its interpretation centre, kitchen barn and chat with some of the people participating in its farming incubator program.

Heritage programming officer Mackenzie Collett wants people to walk away from the farm with a better understanding of the province's food network.
Heritage programming officer Mackenzie Collett wants people to walk away from the farm with a better understanding of the province's food network.

Heritage programming officer Mackenzie Collett wants people to walk away from the farm with a better understanding of the province's food network. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC)

"We really are kind of a hidden gem within the city," said Collett.

"So even though we're right in the middle of things — like really close to the Avalon Mall, Kenmount Road — when you're up here, you really can't hear any of that city noise. Or see any of that. There's really just a lot of greenery and the farmland and everything."

One of her favourite facts about the farm is the apple tree in front of Thimble Cottage that was planted in the late 1800s.

"Everything that the family did in terms of gardening and farming and all of that, it still literally lives on today in a lot of ways," said Collett.

She said it's important that when people walk away from N.L. Open Farm Day — or after any visit to O'Brien Farm — they understand local agriculture, both in a present sense in how it delivers food to our tables as well as its historical significance.

Jory Brown was at O'Brien Farm so his son Noah could explore the farm.
Jory Brown was at O'Brien Farm so his son Noah could explore the farm.

Jory Brown was at O'Brien Farm so his son Noah could explore the property. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC)

"I think a lot of times when you go to the grocery store, it's really easy to forget that your food has to come from somewhere and in some cases it's still possible to get that food locally," Collett said.

"I'm just kind of encouraging everyone to really explore everything we have to offer."

Among the visitors on Sunday was Jory Brown and his young family, who live in an the agriculture heavy Goulds neighbourhood of St. John's.

Brown said his family hadn't visited this the O'Brien farm before, so the open day was an opportunity to finally see it.

"[It's] just so he can experience that, I guess, and have a bit of fun," said Brown of his son, Noah.

"[We're]Just looking for things to do with our son."

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