One Woman’s Journey to Creating The Wandering Market
by Nadine LeBean
The food boxes are a tribute to the farmers, the gardeners, the sowers of seeds, the shovellers of poop, and all the people that deserve to be well fed. Everyone deserves to have food that will bring them health and happiness.
When something dies, it always means life for something else. That is the essence of food and the beginning of my journey to discover it.
It is interesting to me that my greatest achievements have been born out of my worst failures...
A few years ago, our dreams of running a small sustainable farm died and shortly after, our current endeavour, The Wandering Market, was born.
We had endured years of constant struggle, coupled with painful isolation on that farm and we knew it was time to give up the dream and let it die. It was a dark period for us as we accepted that we would not be part of the local food movement that we had felt so passionately about supporting. We moved back into town, but it did nothing to tame the longing in my heart for foods of a fresh and local nature.
One day, I had an epiphany that would change everything. I realized that it wasn’t necessarily the shovelling poop or weeding of gardens that I craved, but rather it was what the farm symbolized to me. It represented connection. I desired to feel intimately connected with my food and the earth that produced it. I wanted to have relationships with people who felt the same.
It was at that time we were getting to know Bill, who has earned his nickname, Chicken Man. He had the most amazing eggs we had ever tasted. They made you want to eat eggs all the time, as they called out to you in the morning to break them into bowls and eat them with cheese. And it is no wonder they tasted amazing, because these chickens live completely free and forage throughout a sixty-acre evergreen and apple tree paradise with a man who loves them like his children. I once caught him sneaking grass he had sprouted out to them so that they wouldn’t feel the winter blues. Whenever it was time to round them up, he insisted we carry them all like precious babies in our arms. The chickens were happy and because of this, Chicken Man was getting a lot of eggs, but he didn’t have any customers for them. I decided I could take on the project of selling his beautiful work. My excitement for Chicken Man’s eggs was contagious and we were selling as many as one hundred and fifty dozen a week! It was effortless and felt like magic. It wasn’t just me, but other people could taste the difference that an ethical, happy farm produced.
I pursued my new goals of coming together with like-minded people so that I could afford to provide local and nourishing foods for my large family of seven. I began ordering things in bulk and splitting it with family, friends, and people that were becoming more than strangers. It went well, really well. So many people were coming forward and saying they, too, were no longer willing to pay more for something that was less.
As we discovered new and unexpected sources of Saskatchewan-grown foods, we began to formally identify ourselves as The Wandering Market. We were open for business!
We are currently visiting the larger cities like Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Saskatoon, and Regina with boxes of food put together from local producers. We fill our boxes with an assortment of goodies from small Saskatchewan farms including things like eggs, meats, grains, wild rice, vegetables, root crops, fresh greens, honey, oats, and more. Some of the most surprising things we have been able to offer are cherries grown on the prairies, cheese, lemons, soap, and fresh mushrooms. The list continually grows and it feels amazing to be able to support these small producers in a big way. Our food boxes operate with a lot of trust from our amazing customers. They pre-purchase a box and we spend the week visiting farms and connecting with producers. I am always excited to think about what we might find that week. Doing the food boxes has allowed us to purchase whatever the farmer has that is abundant and put it to good use.
I am really feeling the power of coming together in numbers and voting with our dollar, as Michael Pollan, leader in the real food movement and author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, says. I love it when random people message me saying they are needing less crap from China and other far-away places. They tell me they are buying more, not just from us but from local producers and the health food stores that carry their products. Small steps like this can make a huge difference in the lives of many! It starts with that one step that could be as simple as buying some free-ranged eggs and then buying something else and building on your list of the locally produced foods in your kitchen. It is truly an amazing journey and I think the best thing about it, next to my mouthfuls of goodness, is the people I have met. I am so humbled by the dedication, trust, and bravery it takes to compete with billion-dollar corporations. They have to get up every day and face so many obstacles with such uncertainty of being paid. I feel honoured to be a part of making that process a little easier on them. And I think it is easier on the consumers, too, as they can get food that has a story and it all goes in one box. The food boxes are a tribute to the farmers, the gardeners, the sowers of seeds, the shovellers of poop, and all the people that deserve to be well fed. Everyone deserves to have food that will bring them health and happiness.
I will continue on this journey of sourcing good food from amazing people. I hope others will be inspired to do the same as I realize there is something deeper going on. There is such a need for this right now as we are not just filling a physical demand for energy in/energy out. We are filling a need for the community and the culture that we all so deeply crave.
Nadine LeBean moved to Gravelbourg, SK, from big-time Edmonton, AB, eight years ago with her partner, Michael, in the pursuit of a simpler, more natural life. Their dreams of what Saskatchewan could provide have been greatly exceeded as they tour around with their five non-schooling children in search of good foods produced on small farms. They can be contacted through The Wandering Market on facebook or on their new blog www.thewanderingmarket.wordpress.com, where they will document their adventures and all that they are learning through their alternative lifestyle.