Field Stone Fruit Wines among many local stalwarts at Farmers Market

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Over 30,000 people attended the opening weekend of the Calgary Farmers’ Market West, which shows how eagerly so many people were looking forward to a location north of the river.

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Naturally, sellers were delighted, but many buyers who had been hesitant to travel all the way south since he left Currie were also delighted to be able to buy locally and directly from growers closer to home.

Many of us appreciate the opportunity to buy locally grown produce that is truly fresh compared to that from elsewhere that needs to be prepared to endure long transport times.

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And customers can speak directly with producers about their products and other products from vendors including Bauer Meats, Pie Cloud, Missing Link Extraordinary Sausages and the ever-enthusiastic owner of Master Chocolat, Bernard Callebaut.

Field Stone Fruit Wines is a good example of the benefits of farmers’ markets for local businesses. Besides representation in a few select liquor stores and maintaining an online presence, owners Marvin and Elaine Gill, along with family partners Lynden Gill and Lorraine Ellingson, rely on markets for the vast majority of sales. Field Stone can be found in both Calgary Farmers Markets and Crossroads Market, as well as Edmonton Bountiful and Red Deer Gasoline Alley Markets.

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The Gills have been making fruit wines since obtaining the first winery license from the Government of Alberta in 2005.

They owned and ran Rideau Music in Calgary for 25 years, but Marvin, whose parents were farmers from Saskatchewan, always wanted to get back on the land.

They bought 30 acres just south of Strathmore in 1998 and that year planted a variety of fruit at Bumbleberry Orchards.

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It was meant to be a hobby farm, but the hobby quickly took over with bumper crops that required a lot of attention and marketing ways beyond its popular U-Pick offering.

And picking the crops, which today include more than 9,000 kilograms of Saskatoon berries, meant organizing picker services from surrounding Hutterite colonies.

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Growing and harvesting berries is one thing, converting them into quality wines meant asking for help and they were lucky enough to be able to enlist the services of Quebec wine expert Dominic Rivard to help them create 10 wine combinations different.

He was a good teacher. In the first year of production, the wines won international awards – and they continue to distinguish themselves with dozens of awards and medals in their 10 varieties of fruit and dessert wines.

As soon as the plump, extra-sweet, sunny berries are harvested, they are immediately frozen and stored in commercial freezers, to be used throughout the year as needed.

Winemaker Marvin says, “It eliminates the need to make large quantities of wine from fresh fruit all at once during harvest. Depending on the summer, this could mean up to 13,600 kilograms.

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Fruit growing needs lots of sun and water. Field Stone is therefore fortunate to be located in southern Alberta, which enjoys approximately 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, particularly in the southeast region, and is considered the sunniest of all Canada. Additionally, the farm receives about 50 centimeters of rainfall per year, which can keep irrigation needs to a minimum.

Elaine says it’s become a labor of love from orchard to bottle, direct farm and cellar sales to mainstays at the popular farmers market.

She says selling at markets provides an opportunity to chat with customers about her wines, while offering tastings gives the best kind of immediate return. Speaking at the new Calgary Farmers’ Market West, she said she also enjoys the camaraderie of other vendors who have become colleagues, helping each other and buying from each other to support the benefits and importance of buy local.

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Brad Little has been appointed Chief Financial Officer of DIRTT. Working from the Calgary headquarters, he will lead the finance team as DIRTT continues to realign the organization and actively reinvest to focus on its strengths, creating agile environments to help its clients navigate change.

A graduate of Texas State University, Little has more than 20 years of progressive finance experience with companies such as Cornerstone Building Brands, North America’s largest manufacturer of exterior building products.


David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 4-4622 or by email at info@davidparker.ca

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