Rocky View County's Pioneer Acres Museum ready to welcome back visitors

Two years of pandemic protocols have been hard on the Pioneer Acres Museum.

The historic farm, located just north of Irricana, was restricted on how many visitors it could host and had to cancel any event involving large gatherings.

Curator Shelly McElroy is excited for the 2022 season that started May 14 with the official opening of the Grain Academy that moved to the site from Stampede Park in 2019.

"It was here and it was where it needed to be but the timing was just off," McElroy told CTV News in an interview. "So we have had two years of waiting for this special place to finally be able to promote it, tell the story and see it come to life."

The exhibit features a 1906 box car in the centre of the space that visitors can walk through and see pictures of harvest decades ago. Bob Swanson is a fourth generation farmer and the president of Pioneer Acres along with being a volunteer for 11 years.

"This actual car that we're standing in came from a neighbor of mine and he phoned me up one day and says, do you think pioneer acres got use for an old rail car and I said maybe, I'll check it out, well yes we did have a use," said Swanson. "It actually became the focal point of the Grain Academy here than what it was sitting out on the prairie."

McElroy says visitors come from all over the world and most don't realize how much food is grown in Alberta and Canadian farmers help feed people all over the world.

"Every day we get to take people on tour through that building and watch them fall in love with their own home," she said. "Realizing how amazing Alberta is so it's super rewarding and we're looking forward to doing that all summer long."

Josh Wade is 18 years old and grew up on a farm. He's a museum technician who takes people for guided tours and is excited about visitors returning.

"What I really love about this place is the community," he said. "There's no other place like it to just be able to come out somewhere, to see people, to interact with them day after day, it's just really special."

Wade has a close tie to the museum because his family donated their original farm house in 1994. It was built in 1911 and has many original furnishings inside.

"My father lived in the house, my grandmother, great-grandmother so there were many generations of my family that lived in that place and they all had very fond memories," he said.

He enjoys taking people through the house to see how people lived in Alberta's early days.

"Every single day without fail I walk in that building and I go, 'Wow, I cannot believe that this was ours,'" said Wade. "Not only that it was ours but now that it's here and that other people can see and feel what it might have been like to live in a house like that so long ago."

The property has all kinds of machinery on it celebrating Alberta's farming community. But one massive vintage tractor is close to McElroy's heart.

"This is a Canadian tractor built in Calgary where the East Hills development is today," she said.

"It was built by the Pioneer Tractor Company, they're an American company from Minnesota and during Alberta's first boom they opened up a building in 1913 and they started manufacturing these tractors, maybe there's 10 of them left in the world, we think this is the oldest one."

Learn more about Pioneer Acres here.