Tourism Talk Tuesday with Edgar Farms 

Known best for being Alberta’s largest asparagus operation, Edgar Farms also grows acres of sweet fresh garden peas, sugar snap and snow peas, broad beans, yellow beans, green beans, pea tendrils and rhubarb. If these farm-fresh veggies aren’t enough, some are also transformed into decadent preserves, pies and soups to heat and serve from your own kitchen. Available at various central Alberta Farmers’ Markets, Edmonton Farmers’ Markets and directly from their Country Store right on the farm.

The Edgar family has been farming in central Alberta since 1907 on the original Edgar homestead just west of Innisfail. With six generations grown and raised on this land, their care and knowledge of farm production shows through their magnificent offerings.

Read ahead for a fresh look at how this Tourism Red Deer member provides homegrown natural (as it should be) products, fresh from the farm to your table.

What makes you different, unique or stand out?

“Since asparagus is grown outdoors, we are completely at the mercy of the weather, Mother Nature is definitely the boss when it comes to asparagus,” says Elna Edgar owner/operator of Edgar Farms. “We are doing something that is nearly impossible to grow in Alberta and is very labour intensive. Due to our cool climate and optimum soil conditions, we produce the most tender, sweetest, flavorful asparagus you will ever taste,” says Edgar.

“Back when we first started, we really wanted to have an incredible product,” says Edgar. “So, we made the decision to snap the asparagus instead of cutting it below the ground.” Elna goes on to explain the “tough butts” that are typically found on the ends of grocery store asparagus due to the cutting method. “By snapping the asparagus, it eliminates these tough butts making ours entirely tender.”

     

Determination is not in short supply at Edgar Farms, though their growing season is. “Our short season for asparagus is approximately mid-May until the end of June,” says Edgar. “We stop picking the asparagus by the end of June, as this ensures a crop for next year.”

“We also have two plantings of garden peas in the ground, and we begin picking around the end of June,” says Edgar. Their garden peas are hand-picked daily all summer to ensure they are always sweet, fresh and well-stocked at local farmers’ markets and in their Country Store throughout July and August. Like the seasons, these tasty garden treasures are only here for a short while so be sure to get them before they are gone!

Why do you do what you do? 

“In the early 1980’s we were raising our 2 daughters who were proving to be very smart kids in schools,” says Edgar. “Knowing they would be heading to university one day, Doug and I were looking for something to add to the farm, where the girls could help out and earn some money.”

After growing a variety of vegetables, the family decided to focus on a couple of specialty crops. “We wanted to offer something unique,” says Edgar. “We have friends in BC that were doing well with asparagus, so we thought, let’s give it a try here in Alberta,” she says. “We planted our first acre and three years later began to get a crop.”

Elna shares that she and her daughters would pick a mile a day, bending and picking one spear at a time. The girls would then take their bundles of asparagus and sell them at the local farmers’ markets. A few years, more experience and some nifty asparagus harvesting equipment later and Edgar Farms now grows 50 acres of their spring asparagus.

What can guests (local or visiting) expect to experience? 

“Our Country Store is COVID-19 safely open,” says Edgar. “Products are roped off to avoid over handling and staff is always available to help so you can enjoy a controlled and comfortable shopping experience.”

Along with their farm-fresh produce, you will find handmade preserves like Apple Chutney, Asparagus Relish and Rhubarb Relish, beautiful additions to any charcuterie board or picnic spread. Why not add a special garnish to those summertime Caesars with their pickled beans, asparagus or sugar snap peas?

     

“Our Country Store is all about homegrown goodness,” says Edgar, “we do not use any artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Everything is natural as it should be.” In the freezer, you can pick up Edgar Farms’ home-raised, hormone and antibiotic-free, grass-fed Angus beef. Find naturally fermented veggies full of natural probiotics and enzymes to aid in digestion, homemade soups, even fruit and savoury pies ready for you to bake and serve.

What is new or upcoming? 

“Due to COVID-19 we will not be hosting any special events this year on our farm,” says Edgar. “But our Country Store is open and well-stocked, so we welcome people to come out and shop Monday to Saturday.”

The Country Store is open until the frost hits, typically the end of September and is stock dependent. Elna suggests calling before you venture out near the end of the season, to ensure products are still available. Store hours are 11:00 am – 6:00 pm daily, closed on Sundays.

Be sure to check out the Recipe section on their website for fantastic ways to use and enjoy delicious Edgar Farms products. Then make your shopping list and head out for a nice country drive to #ExploreRedDeersBackyard. As with any activity it is best to connect directly with the operators for full details on product and service offerings, as pandemic restrictions continue to vary.

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