The Wandering Market
Building a Strong Sustainable Food Culture
by Nadine LeBean
Thirteen years ago I moved to Saskatchewan from Edmonton, Alberta, with my partner and kids. We were searching for a simpler, much cheaper life. Before Saskatchewan, I was the type of person that shopped mostly at places like Planet Organic. I grew up with a father that was a nutritional therapist helping people heal their ailments with nutrition. He also lectured on health to hundreds of people and he would play the tapes of his lectures on the long car rides to his house in Lethbridge. As much as I rolled my eyes at riding with him and listening to him on tape, I became quite aware of the growing food crisis and how it was affecting people’s health. He predicted a lot of the problems that we are seeing today, like cancer rates skyrocketing along with depression, rampant tooth decay in young children, asthma, allergies, diabetes, and on and on. I heard him say it would happen, and then I watched it all unfold before my eyes. I also got to see the benefits people experienced from removing toxic food and switching to whole foods. People would call my dad concerned saying, “Mom is mowing the lawn!” And he would say, “Let her! If she feels good, why not?” And these were people who had been given death sentences. They were supposed to decline and die, not get better and mow lawns.
Fast forward to me as an adult living in rural Saskatchewan. I missed the organic grocery stores but loved the simpler life. I started getting to know the locals and quickly discovered that the area was rich in people with massive gardens, fruit orchards, free-range livestock, and even organic grains. I made friends with a man named Bill who became known as “chicken man.” He lives by Neville, SK, and has a passion for permaculture and heritage breed poultry. The two fit together perfectly. One day he mentioned to me that he had an abundance of eggs. His eggs have dark orange yolks from all the permaculture forage that the chickens got to eat. Something that the neighbours didn’t appreciate or were willing to pay for. I offered to take them to the city and sell them. That was eight years ago, and at that time I was teaching workshops on fermentation and making boards of sauerkraut and kimchi with a good friend who now has an online culture business called “Culture Mother.” (It’s worth checking out.)
Anyways, Chicken Man was tired of trying to defend his price of $5 a dozen. The eggs were a lot of work and the hens were only fed the best, most organic of feeds. They sold like hot cakes in the city. People couldn’t get enough of the deep flavours. The yolks don’t lie. People knew they were good.
From there, Chicken Man’s friend, Cam, called me and said he grows sour cherries without chemicals. I jumped on it and let all my people know. We ended up collectively purchasing thousands of pounds. I became hungry to find more people like Cam and Chicken Man. I purchased in bulk and sold to people I knew, and the Wandering Market was born. It turned into food boxes on people’s front lawns. They were first made at my house, then at a small office, and then at an 1,100 square foot warehouse, to where we are now in Moose Jaw. We have 17,000 square feet of mixed warehouse, kitchen, walk-in refrigeration and market space. We have been here for a year and so far the progress has felt slow until last week when everything felt like it was coming together.
We run a market that is open seven days a week. We are purchasing from over 100 different local suppliers that use ethical, natural principles. We also have been teaching classes and workshops on things like how to make your own mayonnaise, pasta, fermented foods, sourdough, pickles, jams, traditional soap making, crocheting, and more! It’s truly a dream coming true. Truly true. It’s been an enormous task and many times I’ve felt way out of my element and that the risk would swallow me whole. But we are here and growing, and everything and everyone that we need seems to show up at the right moment. I can’t help but continue to walk around and express my undying gratitude even for the long working days, the financial stress, the staffing issues, the refrigeration needs, and on and on.
This has been a major project and we are just getting started. It’s happening because so many people believe in this and are ready to build a strong sustainable food culture here. Saskatchewan grows an amazing amount of good food! We truly can feed ourselves and we will eat like kings and queens. Every season brings on a new excitement with all its flavours and nutrients to enjoy. Did you know that the flavour in real food in its natural state is actually a nutrient? It is.
I’m planning and thinking about where we will be in four years. This place will be a hub of beautiful collaboration of people’s passion and relentless efforts to solve some of our big food problems. This place will be a hub of food education and community that comes together over supper. We will be bringing in whole foods and distributing them all over the province to restaurants, roadside stands, schools, and maybe even hospitals. Who knows?
Our potential as people here is limitless, and I believe this is so needed and desired. So many have expressed to me how much they long to rediscover what the generations before knew. They knew where their food came from and they knew what to do with it, and these things brought them together every day.
Nadine LeBean, founder of the Wandering Market, and her partner can be contacted
at www.thewanderingmarket.com or email: email@example.com, or call/text (306) 648-8047. The Moose Jaw market is located at 461 Athabasca St. East.