Family’s passion bears fruit

A success story that starts with a bucket of asparagus has borne fruit yet again for the Edgar family of Innisfail.

Doug and Elna Edgar

Doug and Elna Edgar

A success story that starts with a bucket of asparagus has borne fruit yet again for the Edgar family of Innisfail.

At noon today, members of the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association were to present Doug and Elna Edgar, fourth generation on their farm, with the 2010 Farm Direct Market of the Year Award.

“I’m just flattered to death that they would bestow that honour on us,” said Elna.

The award recognizes the 25 years the Edgars have spent developing a market garden, commercial kitchen and country store, along with their contributions as one of the founding members of the Innisfail Growers Association, says AFFPA president Jim Hill.

The award recognizes passion, commitment and leadership, said Hill, who operates a berry farm at Sylvan Lake.

Hill said he finds it amazing that, 25 years after starting their market garden project, the Edgars still seem as excited as if they were just getting it underway, in part because a fifth and sixth generation of the family is now working on the farm.

Today, what had been a typical Central Alberta beef and grain operation now welcomes guests and school tours to a variety of on-farm events, including its annual spring asparagus festival. The Edgars are founding members of Country Drive, a self-guided tour of local farms and rural businesses that has grown from one event in 2005 to four events per year, one for each season.

Edgar farms was founded by Doug’s great grandfather, William Edgar, said Elna. William’s son, Wilf, became known for his world-class Hereford breeding program.

There were no cattle on the farm when Elna and Doug were engaged. Wilf fixed that by giving them 10 cows and three calves for their wedding. That stock become the foundation of the commercial herd they still run today, selling frozen beef from their farm store and at local markets during the growing season as well as year-round at the Calgary Farmers’ Market.

Elna said she had been thinking about ways to diversify the farm while bringing in a bucket of asparagus for dinner on a spring day in 1986. The fresh asparagus was so much tastier than what was available in the stores, she thought growing asparagus on a commercial scale might make good business sense.

When a farm business specialist at Alberta Agriculture told them that asparagus would not be commercially successful in Alberta, Doug was ready for the challenge.

Doug felt if that was what everybody was hearing from the province’s experts, then there would be no worries about competition, said Elna.

The Edgars expanded their asparagus plot to 17 acres and later added a pea patch to generate work experience and income for their two daughters, Keri and Angie.

Careful management, hard work and good luck have all helped create the success that Edgar Farms enjoys today, said Elna, whose own family has also farmed in the area for multiple generations.

A fifth and sixth generation of Edgars have now joined her and Doug in their 103-year-old operation. Their daughter and son-in-law, Keri and Randy Graham, along with their own children, now work full time in the business.

AFFPA members are in Red Deer today and Thursday for the association’s annual berry and vegetable schools.