The Friendliest Farmers’ Market in Canada

Wines of the LaHave River Valley


Story by Deb Cripps  ~  Photos by Deb Cripps & Carl Hiebert 

A farmers’ market can be more than just the sale of goods. It can help us to maintain important social connections and serve as an intriguing reflection of the community we live in. You can tell a lot about the people of a town by its market. The mood of a bustling large urban market is remarkably different from that of a small rural market.

The Hubbards Farmers’ Market located in the 215 year-old seaside village of Hubbards, Nova Scotia tells a story. On Saturday mornings it seems that the entire population of Hubbards makes an early migration to the barn. Situated on six acres of woodlands dotted with picnic tables and trails for walking, the vibe is relaxed, easy, and super friendly.

Your morning begins with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, lively tunes from a local band, and one of Papa’s Carl’s homemade blueberry scones.

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There are samples of fine breads, ‘Hug Your Nanny goat cheese, and a taste of the local wine from Petite Rivière. After chatting up the fish monger at Sheila’s about her scallops and cod bits, you wander over to meet Wanda Leopold—who crochets colourful dish clothes. Her smile is a reward in itself.

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Outside there is story-telling, a large sandbox, and a kids’ art table for the kiddies. The fare is fresh and local. The preserves and chocolate are homemade. The honey, smoked fish, grass-fed beef and variety of meats, pastries, fruits and plants are all fresh. Husband and wife team, Devin and Katrina Fairn proudly sell non-sprayed vegetables from their 13-acre operation in Centreville and are eager to share their story.

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live music hubbards novascotia farmers market local theloveoffood  Carl Hiebert photo wine vendor Hubbards Market Nova Scotia

Everyone at this market has a warm smile and nod, and share in a sense of connectedness. The barn mirrors the characteristics of the village and its people, which is most certainly, one of the friendliest markets in Canada.

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The beauty who won it all!

debcripps inksou dairy

From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.

By Deb Cripps 

The judges agree. Her legs score 96 points out of a hundred, and her exceptional rump deserves a 97. With an impressive 94 for mammary, she’s an absolute shoe-in!

No, this isn’t the Miss Canada contest. It is the conformation analysis earned by Inksou – a 12-year-old Holstein Inksou and the beauty that won the Royal Winter Fair twice and was the highest-classified cow in Canada.

Inksou was retired auctioneer and dairy farmer David Crack’s prize cow and an animal he will never forget. The sign in the entrance way to David’s home in Richmond, Quebec welcomes you with a credo he has embraced: Live well, laugh often, love much. 

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David has travelled extensively as a cow breeder and auctioneer, and although retired, he’s still a fast talker with an expressive face, big laugh and dancing eyebrows. You can imagine him on a stage working an anxious  crowd of bidders. In a world where one animal can command hundreds of thousands of dollars, a skilled auctioneer like David plays a critical role. The most expensive animal David has ever auctioned off fetched an astounding $500,000.

He describes auctioneering like performance art. “You have to bring folks into what you are doing. You have to make it exciting and work at getting people involved. It’s about creating action.”

During Inksou’s lifetime her genetic heritage was carefully managed. With documentation going back through five generations of pedigree cows, and with her offspring worth $25,000 each, she was the kind of prize cow breeders aim for.

It was a joy hanging out on the farm with one of Canada’s fine dairy farmers . I’ve been in many milking barns, but I doubt I will ever see another so pristine, or meet a farmer who loved his cows like he did.

debcripps inksou dairyDuring our photo shoot, I watched him with Inksou as he beamed with pride and stroked her with heartfelt emotion. At the end our interview he summed up his life work in a few simple but poignant words. “Animal welfare is the number one priority here.  On our farm, the cows come first.”

Give me a home where the buffalo roam

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From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.

Flying through a foot of oozing, stinking, coal-black mud is Ken Farkash’s idea of a good day at work.

And riding ATVs, with the wind in my face and the sweet musky smell of wild sage, tall grasses, weeds, and wildflowers, I know why. The prairie is intoxicating.

We are heading out to Grizzly Bear Coulee – a series of rolling hills straddling the river-bed flats on the Farkash family farm that is located in Vermilion, Alberta. You don’t have to be a professional tracker to determine what kind of life roams here. Tufts of soft, brown fur float through the air and large droppings litter the ground.

As we approach the valley basin, we spot his grazing herd of 240 buffalo cows and their baby calves. Immediately sensing our presence, the herd tighten their stance and move closer together.

Even in their shaggy spring coats of shedding fur, these majestic animals are a sight to behold.

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“On the farm there is always the opportunity to accomplish a dream. It’s a great life! As a kid, I grew up in a really small farmhouse that was almost like a wooden granary. It wasn’t insulated, and when the wind blew, the curtains moved!” he laughs.

“Most people who raise buffalo fall in love with them. You don’t herd buffalo like you do cows – you attract them with oats. They are gentle, wild creatures. I’ve had buffaloes eat right out of my hand!

“I talk to them in a calm voice and try to entice them. And you know, I’ve never had an animal chase me.”

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In a sprint or marathon, Ken wouldn’t be much of a match. Buffalo are three times as fast as a cow and his only hope to out run them would be on one of his high-powered quads.

The natural lifespan for a buffalo cow is about 35 years. They use visual and auditory signals and have a highly developed sense of smell. With a gestation period of nine months, they’ll average about 25 calves in a lifetime. Bison are vegetation grazers and weigh in around 430 kg. Their brownish black fur actually contains a down which makes it surprisingly soft.

Historical accounts suggest there were 60 million bison in 1800. One hundred years later, there were fewer than 1,000 remaining. But with the reintroduction of bison to the plains by ranchers, farmers, and conservation agencies, that number increased to an estimated 500,000 in North America by 2005.

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Along with raising buffalo, Ken and his wife Mavis also grow wheat and canola and like most farmers, they have seen their share of tough times and know what it is to be dependent on variables—like weather and economic conditions beyond their control.

Ken remains intentional about focusing on the positive and his eyes sparkle with delight when he tells me, “Character isn’t shaped by rose-garden experiences, and Deb: if I had one message to give to the public, it’s this. People need to realize that farmers are producing high quality food at a low price—and that is a good thing for everybody.”

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From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.  By Deb Cripps

As a regional Canadian Food – “Where the Buffalo Roam” depicts the passion of an Alberta farmer and his love of the land and animals.  This “Canadian Food Experience Project” is as unique as the majestic buffalo that still roam this glorious country.



“I’ll trade you my recording company for your manure spreader”

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From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people

deb cripps Lorenz the love of food

Life is unpredictable. Several decades ago, Lorenz Eppinger lived in Toronto and operated his own recording company, AMOK.  It was a successful small record label that produced fifteen albums annually with world-wide distribution.

record deb crippsLorenz was a one-man operation, who was either on the road chasing new business or organizing music tours. On occasion, he would meet with his buddy Hugo Rampen, a farmer from Fergus, and the pair often spent their time together talking about their lives, family and the challenges of their work. Hugo was intrigued by the music industry and the opportunity Lorenz had connecting with artists. It was an exciting world that couldn’t compare to his days of sitting on a tractor making nice straight rows.

Ironically, the opposite was also true. Lorenz envied Hugo’s lifestyle and days he spent outdoors in the sun with hands in the soil. This work seemed to offer a peacefulness that was missing from Lorenz’s life.    

On one afternoon during their visit, Lorenz took fate into his own hands and brazenly offered Hugo a deal that changed the course of both of their lives. [Read more...]

Food is not just about your itty-bitty body.

deb cripps cathy hanen

From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.

deb cripps cathy hanen

Cathy Hansen is a farmer who cooks and a cook who farms. Working from soil to the table, she grows wholesome organic vegetables and herbs to use in her small farmhouse kitchen. The results are delicious.

deb cripps cathy hansen hands“I love the creativity (of food). I’m not an artist, but a kitchen painter. I can taste things in my head… I guess I have a reasonably good palate.

Cooks are lucky; we have an opportunity to give all the time and short circuit the necessity to buy something.”

After pursuing an agricultural science degree at the University of Guelph she turned her attention to farming. With a student body that was 75% male, the balance being women who were raised on farms and 4-H clubs, she was strikingly different. “I grew up in Oakville and my dad was an airline pilot. Because I wasn’t a farmer’s kid, I looked at things differently.” [Read more...]

Little girl: YOU CAN’T be a farmer. You have to marry one!

theloveoffood ann slater

From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.

Deb Cripps the love of food 5

theloveoffood ann slaterStrolling through ‘Organic Ann’s’ vegetable garden is like stepping into a gigantic salad of greens. The aroma of lettuce, radishes and onions permeates the air. Filtered sunlight dances through the field of oversized spinach, baby bok choy, and other jewel-like emerald vegetables.

Gardeners from novice to pro, and a loyal following of discriminating buyers seek out Ann’s knowledge and her produce. The attraction is obvious. She has the giggle of a young girl, the wisdom of a master gardener, and is passionate about growing vegetables – organically.

Ann Slater was raised on a farm in southern Ontario by parents who instilled a sense of environmentalism.

“I took over the family garden when I was only 15, and even then my produce was organic, just not certified. I don’t know how to grow with chemicals – I never learned. My dad stopped using pesticides on the farm in the mid 1970’s. When I realized there was a demand for great-tasting fresh vegetables, I set up a card table on a main street in town, and sold whatever I had grown that week.”

As a young girl in the early 90’s, Ann’s aspiration to farm was not met with enthusiasm. Public perception of the average farmer at that time just didn’t include an energetic, forward-thinking young female.

“My biggest challenge wasn’t being the ‘rebel organic market gardener’; it was gaining acceptance as a female in farming,” she says. “People would tell me, ‘You can’t be a farmer. You have to marry a farmer.’”  [Read more...]

White Lightning and the Blues

carl hiebert organic popcorn

From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.

carl hiebert organic popcornIn Ormstown Quebec, Steve and Loraine Lalonde are pioneers in the field of organic popcorn. Their popcorn White Lightning has three necessary ingredients that constitute great popcorn – fantastic taste, a high popability rate, and it melts in your mouth.

Steve knew they had a great product when they bought commercial popcorn and did their own taste test. “White Lightning’s creamy, nutty-texture sets it apart. And our Tullochgorum Blues is a unique, blue-kernelled corn that really catches people’s eyes. It’s blue when you put it in the pot, then it pops up white.”

The Lalonde’s motivation to take on the organic challenge was [Read more...]

From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people

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Go Blue or go home: Blue Antioxidants.

Can you imagine strolling through luscious wild blueberry bushes with millions of honeybees buzzing all around you? the love of food bees


Visit Russ and Donna Hawkins at their blueberry farm this spring in Pennfield, New Brunswick and you’ll discover fields that are ‘just a buzzin!’  [Read more...]

A Young Dairy Farmer’s Perspective

deb cripps the love of food

From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.

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Alex Anstice is 28 years old with a degree in Agriculture from Guelph University. He enjoys biking, playing the guitar and drums, and is a full-time dairy farmer in partnership with his parents, Dorothy and Jim Anstice on a 275 acre farm in Tehkummah, Ontario

If you ask Alex why he farms, he smiles, and will tell you that his love of farming started when he was a little boy who often fell asleep on the back of his dad’s tractor. “By nine years-old I was driving the tractor myself and by 12, I was helping with the milking.

[Read more...]

Fabulous Female Farmers

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Deb Cripps the love of food 5From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people. 

  Chef Extraordinaire

In the Edel farmhouse in Morris Manitoba, a comforting aroma of cinnamon, rosemary, and nutmeg wafts through the air of Elaine Edel’s kitchen. Resting on the counter are cooling racks filled with the day’s baking: pies, waffles, muffins, and the most divine-looking breads.

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Her kitchen resembles a lab with its grinders, dehydrators, mixers and other tools of her trade. She grinds flour, rolls oats and barley, she makes soup and salad dressings from scratch, and cans hundreds of jars of food every year. Elaine is not only a farmer and chef extraordinaire; she is a pioneer in food science and author of seven cookbooks [Read more...]

The First Lady of Farming

Carl Hiebert - The love of food - 2 (2)

This farming story takes place in the small community of Bruce Mines, Ontario with Ron and Cathy Bonnett.

Carl Hiebert - The love of food - 2 (2)The Bonnetts operate an 800-acre farm with 200 head of Angus. Ron is the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), and his business travel (200 days each year) regularly takes him away from the farm. That puts the first lady in charge…

[Read more...]