Field Stone Fruit Wines among many local stalwarts at farmers’ market

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More than 30,000 people took in the opening weekend of Calgary Farmers’ Market West, an indication of how so many were looking forward to a location north of the river.

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Naturally, vendors were overjoyed, but many shoppers who had been reluctant to travel all the way to the south location since it moved out of Currie were also excited to be able to buy local and direct from growers closer to home.

Many of us appreciate the opportunity to buy locally grown, really fresh compared to that from elsewhere that has to be made ready for enduring long transportation times.

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And customers get to talk directly with growers about their produce and other goods on offer from vendors, including Bauer Meats, Pie Cloud, Missing Link Extraordinary Sausages and the always-enthusiastic owner of Master Chocolat, Bernard Callebaut.

Field Stone Fruit Wines is a good example of the benefits of farmers’ markets for local businesses. Apart from representation in a few select liquor stores and now 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 is in both Calgary Farmers’ Market locations and Crossroads Market, plus Edmonton Bountiful and Red Deer Gasoline Alley markets.

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The Gills have been making fruit wines since they were awarded the first estate winery licence by the Alberta government in 2005.

They had owned and run Rideau Music in Calgary for 25 years, but Marvin, whose parents were Saskatchewan farmers, always had a yearning to be back on the land.

They purchased 30 hectares just to the south of Strathmore in 1998 and that year planted a variety of fruits at Bumbleberry Orchards.

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It was supposed to be a hobby farm, but the hobby soon took over their life with bumper crops that needed a lot of attention and ways of marketing beyond its popular U-Pick offering.

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

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

He was a good teacher. In the first production year, the wines won international awards — and they continue to be distinguished with dozens of awards and medals across its 10 varieties of fruit and dessert wines.

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

Winemaker Marvin says, “This eliminates the need for manufacturing vast amounts of wine from fresh fruit all at once when harvested.” Depending upon the summer, that could mean up to 13,600 kilograms.

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Growing fruit needs lots of sunshine and water, so Field Stone is blessed with its location in southern Alberta, which boasts approximately 2,500 hours of sunshine a year, particularly in the southeast area, and is rated as the sunniest in all of Canada. Additionally, the farm receives around 50 centimetres of precipitation yearly, which can keep irrigation requirements down to a minimum.

Elaine says it has become a labour of love from orchard to bottle, from farmgate and winery direct sales to popular farmers’ market mainstays.

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

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Brad Little has been appointed CFO at DIRTT. Working out of the Calgary headquarters, he will lead the financial team as DIRTT continues to realign the organization and actively reinvest to focus on its strengths, building agile environments to help its customers navigate change.

A graduate of Texas State University, Little has over 20 years of progressive experience in finance with companies including Cornerstone Building Brands, the largest manufacturer of exterior building products in North America.


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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Field Stone Fruit Wines among many local stalwarts at farmers’ market

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