A Sturgeon County farm known for its pumpkin patch and intricate corn mazes is attracting visitors from around the globe.
Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm has become a popular destination for people looking to reconnect with a way of life that for many is now long in the past.
“People we find now are about three generations off the farm,” said Prairie Gardens owner Tam Andersen. “They really don't have a place anymore that could be grandma and grandpa's farm, where they used to go out and have Thanksgiving weekend, and just explore and enjoy.”
Andersen, who has owned Prairie Gardens for 34 years, has turned to agri-tourism to keep the farm sustainable through the decades, first with U-pick strawberry fields then corn mazes and later pumpkin patches. The farm’s annual month-long Haunted Pumpkin Festival, complete with child-friendly entertainment, wagon rides, a petting zoo and a pumpkin cannon, runs every October.
"It's been one thing after another and every year we smile and say, yes, we can do that,” Andersen said.
Andersen gets about 50,000 visitors a year between Easter and Christmas. In the warmer months Prairie Gardens hosts weddings and gourmet “farm to fork” long-table dinners, with menus that include fresh produce from the farm’s 25 acres of vegetables.
"What's so interesting to us is that people really care about what they're putting in their bodies,” Andersen said. “They’re really interested to meet a farmer, to support a local farm, and to help create a local foodshed.”
Andersen’s sustainability strategy also includes international tours for visitors looking for an authentic farm experience. She’s opened the gates to groups from Korea, Australia, Japan, Germany and elsewhere.
“We work really closely with Travel Alberta and Edmonton Tourism. And they really help us do that,” Andersen said.
Over the busy Thanksgiving weekend Andersen had about 80 staff helping out with the pumpkin festival crowds.
“We want families to know that this is the place that they can come and bring their kids and it's safe and it's fun,” Andersen said.
Agriculture is also part of the fun, she added.
“It's about connecting back to the land and back to the people who steward the land."