The State of Local Food in Saskatchewan
by Nadine LeBean and Kobie Spriggs
I am Nadine Lee (LeBean) and I (along with my team) have been running an innovative food hub in Moose Jaw, SK, for the last six years. The hub aggregates, sells, and distributes food grown locally here in Saskatchewan with pride, ingenuity, and a lot of love. We have a physical store in Moose Jaw and also do deliveries weekly around Saskatchewan. Prior to this, we ran a hub out of our home among friends and people who found us through mutual friends and referrals. Needless to say, it has grown into so much more.
I’ve seen local food in Saskatchewan intimately through its changes and evolutions for 14 years now. I live for food and community and my business developed out of a desire to feed my family locally and economically for sustainability and health.
At first I couldn’t anticipate the community that would rise up. I couldn’t imagine 14 years ago how big the demand and needs were, but quickly realized there was a call for connecting people to the abundance of the amazing food being produced and grown here.
We found so many people with excess beef, eggs, fruits, vegetables, grains, honey, and so much more! It wasn’t just food. It was families, histories, and stories.
We also found that so many new people were feeling drawn to produce food and get back to the land. It’s still happening today and, in fact, gains momentum daily. I get multiple call and emails a week from people who have or are thinking about growing food for themselves, or they are interested in developing a business that grows and produces. We have become so much more than a hub and, like our food, we continue to evolve organically and in response to our community. We have a had glimpse of the importance of local food when we experienced the shortages due to COVID-19.
The Wandering Market became the only store in town to have things like eggs, milk, ground beef, and flour. In the afternoon once the grocery stores ran out, there would be line ups of people waiting to get food from us. And we never ran out. We just kept calling up our farmers and they would bring us more food. It was delightful to see the demand, and many of us in local food grew our systems and infrastructure to support this new need.
Since then, the demand has dwindled and many of us are now wondering how we could get it back and fill the need for our own food security. The benefits of local food are far deeper than security, which is really important. There’s local economy, soil building, health, community, and of course… taste! That taste you get from a garden carrot is actual nutrients from the soil. The reason local tastes better is because of the nutrients, freshness, and less degradation of those nutrients.
I often sit and wonder if the customers who support us fully feel the weight of their purchases. It’s a good weight. It’s supportive and contagious. Every dollar spent on local food goes out into the community to provide us with security and deep nourishment. It’s been a joy watching farmers grow with us as we develop systems and strive to improve our services and inventory.
I think the biggest benefit I’ve received from local food is the community around it. Recently I divulged to our producers that we weren’t doing well. I decided to be honest, as I noticed my emails and bills piling up. That honesty sparked a reaction of food producers reaching out to me. This is community and this is what being local is all about.
I was, in truth, overwhelmed with all the kindness and encouragement I received. It gave me the opportunity to breathe and release my fears, and then to show up again and do and be better. It’s not just about shopping at a local store. Ask what kinds of goods they are selling? Where do they come from? Do they give back and support local endeavours and organizations? These are the hallmarks of a community-minded business.
Food is the thing that has always brought people together and now is no exception, in fact, it remains one of our eternal constants. Food is the thing I’ve personally used to connect me to the community, and develop a deep sense of purpose, place, and passion. Our business mission statement is “Building community through local food.” This statement guides us ethically and asks questions about whether an action is in line with building community. I really want people to know that local food is abundant/available and to encourage people to look for it and shift what they eat a little bit.
I like to say “eat the abundance,” which means looking for what’s available, local, as well as planning around availability instead of simply finding the food you want. Being more conscious of what you are eating makes such a huge difference in so many ways that are physically and emotionally tangible. Finding recipes and ways to use local food are easy. A simple online search can produce a local food market or store selling local food, an eager farmer, gardener, chef using local food near you, as this is an ever expanding mission. It should be clear that farmers and gardeners need us as much as we need them.
Your purchases are the thing that keep it all going, and right now local growers are vulnerable due to the state of the economy. When and if you are able, please incorporate local foods into your meal plans and diets. You not only improve your wellness but the whole community’s wellness, too. Want a revolution? Start with your dinner plates and shop local! Wishing you all the abundance of the season!
Nadine Lee (LeBean) and her husband Michael own The Wandering Market in Moose Jaw; Kobie Spriggs is the owner of Existential Hippy in Moose Jaw. They are all local food warriors and neighbours who believe in building community through local food. The store is located at 461 Athabasca St. E. and they also have an online store at www.thewanderingmarket.com. For more information, call (306) 690-3553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.