Our Farmer's Market Experience

Welcome back.  I hope you are all having a wonderful week wherever you are located.  We have returned to winter here in our part of the world.  Tuesday night dropped to -25C with the following few nights down around -35C.  By the end of the weekend it is forecasted to warm up quite considerably.  We are expecting one more cow to calve shortly so I sure hope she waits until it warms up a bit.  When it is this cold we absolutely have to get to that calf right away and get mom and baby in the barn as fast as possible.  So this means many nights of broken sleep having to get up and check.  Thankfully there are four of us to take turns.  

As promised last week, I will take you along as I reminisce about our days of participating in the local farmer's market.

In 1998 our farm became certified organic.  Shortly after this we started to attend the Grande Prairie Farmer's Market.  This market was located about an hour drive from our home.  Every Saturday morning we would pack up all our products and children and head to market.  We were taking our grassfed beef and grassfed lamb plus a small amount of fresh baked bread with us.  Within a year we had a small, but faithful following of customers.  At this point the farm was not making a full time income.

Our booth at the new Farmer's Market location downtown

Our booth at the new Farmer's Market location downtown

After being at the market for a couple of years the board of directors decided that if the market was to grow it needed to move to town.  It had been located in the current location about five miles out of the Grande Prairie city limits for many years.  Within a short time a new home was located in the downtown area.  An old car dealership was leased and renovations began to make it a pleasant place for a farmers market.  

The move to the downtown core of the city brought an increase of customers because of easier accessibility to public transport.  Two additional days were added as well.  It also brought an increase in vendors.  

We continued to bring our grassfed beef and lamb, pastured eggs and pork, and breads.  We also added bulk organic foods to our offerings.  

 Eventually Larry and I were asked to serve on the board of directors.  During my time on the board we initiated and completed a total renovation of the market.  Individual stalls were designed using timber framing to create a rustic setting.  This renovation further increased the traffic flow through the market.  

Our business had continued to grow during this time.  So anticipating further growth we built an government approved, on-farm meat processing facility.  This allowed us to offer a larger variety of meat cuts to our customers.  

Also during this time we were invited to attend Terra Madre in Torino, Italy.  This is a Slow Food conference that is represented by producers from many, many countries around the world.  We were able to rub shoulders with other farmers from around the world.  We made connections with other Canadians that we would be able to learn from.

Torino, Italy:  Finally registered and looking forward to a time of learning and relaxing

Torino, Italy:  Finally registered and looking forward to a time of learning and relaxing

We spent a few more happy years at the market.  Our business continued to grow.  Our dreams looked like they were coming to fruition.

But, low and behold situations change.  As you are all probably aware change is not something that comes easily.  Political wrangling had started to happen within the market.  This made it uncomfortable to customers and vendors alike.  A noticeable decrease in customers for all vendors was noticed, including our farm.  Three days a week was taxing our energy.  Also, by this time we had been leaving the children at home on market days.  This decision was not the best for our family. 

After about a year of struggling with the decision to leave we finally pulled the plug.  We packed up all our equipment and dreams and left the market.  

Well, animals still had babies so we had to sell somewhere so we resorted to selling through the auction mart.  We have done this for about six years now.  A few very loyal customers did stick with us.  We felt that they had a deep appreciation for high quality meats we produced and they needed for their family's health.  We were also able to stabilize our family.  Everyone became much more content with each other.

God is good and He is faithful.  Our dreams may have been stifled for awhile, but are being revived on a daily basis. Our focus, which had become a little blurred over the years has now come into sharp focus.  Seventeen years ago we went through the Holistic Management training process.  At that time we were able to verbalize our life goals.  As sometimes happen with a young growing family things get set aside while life happens.  After struggling with how to make our farm a viable business we revisited that holistic goal.  Low and behold it had not changed at all.  So with new determination we have gone through the holistic planning process again.  All of us who are actively involved in the farm now have a place to focus our passions.  Our road is no longer a winding trail whose destination is unknown.  We can now look toward our goal and travel the straight path to where we want to be.

It has always been our desire to have our children want to farm with us.  This is now happening for us.  We have two children living at home who work with us on a daily basis.  They are such a tremendous help.  Our middle son and his beautiful wife are living in Edmonton until she finishes her nursing degree.  Then they plan to move back to the area to start up their own enterprises, sharing in the established infrastructure of the farm.  Our oldest daughter along with her talented husband and little girl are living happily in Edmonton, but still desire to have a working connection to the farm.  She accomplishes this through the development of our social media marketing efforts, especially Instagram and personally connecting with our Edmonton area customers.  Our oldest son along with his wonderful wife are living on the farm.  They have been blessed with two babies that grandpa and grandma get to dote on everyday.

So looking forward brings uncertainty, but tremendous excitement.  We are committed to direct marketing to families who are searching for nutrient-dense, grassfed and pasture raised, clean food to nourish themselves and their children.  We will not be attending any farmer's markets, but will be selling direct to the end user of our farm-raised foods.  We haven't finalized all the details yet, but it is looking like we will be serving the Edmonton and Grande Prairie areas through a "metropolitan buying club" model.  We anticipate a central drop off location where you would pick up your preordered items.  As we move forward this will all fall into place.

Thanks for following us on our farm journey.  Friday blog posts will shift from our history to highlighting daily life as it unfold on the farm.  I hope you will join us on our adventures.