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Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm struggles to move produce after reopening in Sturgeon County

Click to play video: 'Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm losing business in Sturgeon County'
Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm losing business in Sturgeon County
Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm, a small facility north of Edmonton, is usually packed with people hoping to take in the pumpkin patch and sense of fall. But it's run into bylaw issues with Sturgeon County and is now struggling to keep up. Sarah Komadina has more – Oct 21, 2022

This October has seen warmer weather than usual and people have been taking advantage of it — but one popular U-pick farm hasn’t seen those benefits.

Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm has all of its pumpkins on display — but this late into the season, many should have already been purchased and taken home.

That hasn’t happened because it’s been a bumpy season at the farm near Bon Accord, about 25 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Pumpkins at Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm, just north of Edmonton in Sturgeon County, on Oct. 20, 2022. Global News

Sturgeon County enforced a stop order in August — at the beginning of harvest — that said Prairie Gardens couldn’t offer U-pick, hayrides, corn maze, or other small-scale events like weddings, retreats, parties, markets or farm-to-table dinners.

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Read more: Prairie Gardens outside Edmonton to ‘cease events and certain operations’

The farm has since reopened but it is only allowed a third of its usual guest on site.

“It was devastating. We were closed at the beginning of our harvest period, so we’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Tam Andersen, a farmer and owner of Prairie Gardens.

“We have an amazing pumpkin crop and we just can’t have the number of people we would like to see out at the farm to buy them all.”

Pumpkins at Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm, just north of Edmonton in Sturgeon County, on Oct. 20, 2022. Global News

The closure also resulted in layoffs, and the farm needed volunteers to help pick all of the pumpkins.

Now there is another call for volunteers, but this time for potatoes. The farm is looking for people to help this weekend.

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“Our goal is to get 10,000 potatoes out of the ground before Monday morning when it turns cold.”

The potatoes will be donated to the Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan food banks. Andersen calls it a silver lining.

People picking potatoes at Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm, just north of Edmonton in Sturgeon County, on Oct. 20, 2022. Global News

Sturgeon County mayor Alanna Hnatiw said the reason for the stop order and the rules to scale back the amount of people allowed on site is because of safety concerns.

Prairie Gardens can accommodate parking for 100 vehicles, and when there wasn’t enough parking people would use a single lane highway with narrow shoulders.

“Problems that we have had over a number of years have continued to be exasperated as the size of the crowds grew at that location,” the mayor said.

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“It’s not our intention to interfere with anybody’s ability to raise dollars but at some point, it’s up to the business owner to make sure they manage the growth of the business and make sure that they working within the confines of the regulation,” Hnatiw said.

The county is doing a review to find appropriate framework for agritourism and agribusiness.

“Too much policy is too restrictive but not enough doesn’t give people reassurance and security about what the community they live looks like,” Hnatiw said.

“Not everybody wants to live right next door or on the side of one of these venues, so where is appropriate for them to go, what are the hours of operation, what are appropriate sound levels for the area as well so those are all matters we are all considering.”

Click to play video: 'Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm forced to close'
Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm forced to close

Hnatiw said it would also be beneficial if the province created its framework for agritourism and how these businesses operate.

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Andersen would also like to see involvement from the province, pointing to Ontario and B.C. which has framework already in place.

“In my opinion, it should be something that is overseen by a provincial agricultural framework, so that small farms particularly can grow and shift to changing markets,” Andersen said.

Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm, just north of Edmonton in Sturgeon County, on Oct. 20, 2022. Global News

Council will be discussing the review on Nov. 15. Andersen hopes it will lead to a positive turn for her business.

“I think it takes a strong vision and good leadership from municipality to support small farms.”

“This is something we’ve done for 40 years and before that, this farm has been in operation continuously since 1956 — so almost 70 years this farm has run and been successful,” Andersen said.

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“To be sustainable and viable, and all it takes for a municipality to tweak a land use bylaw and we could continue to be sustainable — but at this current moment, we are stuck.”

Click to play video: 'Explore Alberta at Prairie Gardens in Bon Accord'
Explore Alberta at Prairie Gardens in Bon Accord

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