It has been a difficult year for many of us, yet we can still count our blessings and give thanks for the bounty of the season and to the folks who make it happen.
Salute to the growers
Just north of Cochrane, family-owned and operated Solstice Berry Farm was started by Marsha and Rick Gelowitz in 1994. They began by growing hay for the export market and raising sheep but by 2003 had morphed into growing and selling Canada’s beloved Saskatoon berry. You might want to call it the Solstice Saskatoon Berry Farm because that’s the only berry they grow. Who needs anything else? The orchard has expanded to 40 acres, 10 of which are dedicated to u-pick, the rest for commercial growing.
The fresh berry season only lasts three to four weeks – check the website in early summer to see when they are ready for picking. And while the primary offering is frozen berries, they make on site a line of premium artisan-crafted Saskatoon products including jam, jelly, syrup, juice, vinaigrette, BBQ sauce and dessert topping.
“We love how people come out and participate and how they sincerely want to know about your farm and family,” says Marsha. “We certainly see that at the Cochrane Farmers’ Market and as a small business, we are grateful that the citizens come out to support all the vendors’ efforts.”
Owners of Early Dawn Farm, Bruce and Dawn Kay settled on their 40 acres (also) north of Cochrane in 1987, with the goal of raising their family in a farm setting and relying on what they could grow to feed them.
Dawn’s love affair with goats began in 1995 when Durga and Meriby joined the farm – and apparently took over. Since then, Dawn has progressed from milking the girls for the family to learning to make soap, lotions and all kinds of goat’s milk cheeses for the family business. Her passion for learning the art of cheese making has taken her all over North America.
Quality animal care and quality products are the results of keeping the operation small and hands on. This has become a full-time job for Dawn as she tends to her goats and hand crafts all Early Dawn’s goods. Fast-forward to her latest pièce de résistance: goat milk caramel sauce – and she can’t make this crowd pleaser fast enough. Try it over ice cream or visit The Gentry Espresso & Wine Bar and ask for the goat caramel latte and cookie combo.
Salute to our farmers’ market champion
Dawn and Marsha are among the mainstays of our farmers’ market and we are the grateful beneficiaries. But this story would not be complete without a shout-out to Valerie McCracken, the tireless volunteer organizer who has made our market what it is today. She began by volunteering for the Cochrane Environmental Action Committee, which sponsors and operates the market. In 2008, there were rumours of the market shutting down. Valerie offered to step up and save it. By 2009, she took over the entire operation and, under her leadership, it has grown from 20-25 vendors to 50-65 today. Her purview now includes the Spring, Street, Summer and Christmas markets.
What Valerie loves best is building relationships with the vendors. She is passionate about helping to make a difference, creating sustainability and supporting local farmers and start-up entrepreneurs. The future? She wants to establish an agro-tourism hub here in Cochrane, alongside her dream to create a unique indoor-outdoor market. Today, her mission is to find a way to make the Christmas Market happen. Where there’s a Valerie, there’s a way. Stay tuned.
Writer: Jane Usher