Every Thursday, Tam Andersen delivers produce to some of Edmonton’s finest restaurants. At Prairie Gardens, located just outside of Bon Accord, she’s developed a real niche.
Prairie Gardens grows microgreens to gourds to edible flowers. It hosts farm-to-fork dinners and has become an agritourism hotbed, hosting visitors from throughout Europe, North America and Asia.
It wasn’t always like this. A decade ago, Prairie Gardens was more about corn mazes and strawberry U-picks. Then, NAIT instructor Blair Lebsack visited Prairie Gardens as part of a tour meant to promote community agriculture.
“He said he was amazed by our entrepreneurial spirit,” said Andersen, who has run Prairie Gardens for 25 years. “And I thought, ‘excellent, here’s a chef who works with students.’ They don’t use pumpkin or squash nearly enough in Alberta.”
So, Andersen began dropping off produce at NAIT for the students. When Lebsack launched Rge Rd, Andersen became one of his suppliers. More chefs came on board.
“We push the envelope of what you can grow in Alberta,” says Andersen. “We’ve really expanded our vegetable line of what we grow, based on working with chefs. So once your mind starts to think like a chef’s mind, and you’re a farmer, that changes everything. Now you’re looking for things with colour, things with flavour, things available in different seasons — the earlier the better and the later the better.”
Andersen’s collaboration with chefs led to the farm-to-fork dinners, which grew into a full-blown agritourism program. “If we look at our business, it’s flipped 180 degrees,” says Andersen.