Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, July 21, 2014

When Bad Things Happen in Good Places

Sometimes bad things happen, even in good places. Fort McMurray is no different in this regard, and I have often written about some of the things that have happened here that sadden me. This weekend, though, I heard a story which angered me as well, because what makes it even worse in my mind is when bad things happen to visitors to our community.

Serben Free Range is a 4th-generation old-style free-range family farm. As many in the community know this farm, located near Smoky Lake, has been making the trek up to Fort McMurray for some time to sell their meat products to the people of this community. Now, Serben farms the old-fashioned way, the way my father always farmed and insisted was the right way - small scale, no antibiotics, no growth hormones, no feed additives - none of the nonsense which has come to dominate the world of factory farming. This isn't some corporate farm but rather the Serben family farm, a farm developed through four generations of knowledge, expertise, experience and, I would venture, love.

Recently Serben Free Range has been in the community to participate in the Urban Market downtown. My understanding is that there is significant cost for them to make the journey here, and on some trips their only goal is to break even and not lose money. Why do they come here? Well, to present this community with the opportunity to enjoy farm products that don't come from a grocery store, sealed in plastic and with a questionable history. They come here because there is a demand for the goods they produce, and so they make the lengthy trek north in order to serve the needs of this community.

I follow Serben Free Range on Twitter and Instragram. As the daughter of a farmer I love seeing a little slice of their life, family farming at its finest and a continuation of a profession and lifestyle I honour as part of my legacy. While I still co-own the family farm it is now leased to someone else and in some ways my connection to the land has been broken as my father, due to injury, had to give up farming when I was a young child and I grew up urban instead. But I still feel that bond with farmers as so much of my extended family still farms, and I still feel it every time I visit the farm I own with my sisters and stand on the land my father once tilled decades ago.

This weekend, though, I was deeply disheartened to learn that when the Serben family was in Fort McMurray at the last Urban Market they were the victims of theft. Their money from the market was stolen during their time in our community, and besides feeling outraged for them I felt deeply saddened that our community would treat a guest in such a way. And the Serben family are guests here, deeply welcome ones who we appreciate and recognize for their commitment to bringing to us something we would otherwise not be able to enjoy. I suppose for me it's not even about the produce they bring but the connection they make me feel every time I see them tweet or share a photo about happenings at the farm. They remind me of that connection, one with people who are honest and pure and good. They remind me, I suppose, of my dad.

On July 30 at the next Urban Market I intend to show my gratitude to Serben Free Range for their continued commitment to our community, even when some individuals in our community may be less than stellar examples of the true nature of who we are. I intend to show up and buy some of their products, and I would encourage everyone who has some connection to the land (and for the record that would be all of us since we all eat) and who wish to show them the true nature of this community do the same.

Sometimes bad things happen in good places, and Fort McMurray is a good place where, on occasion, bad things happen. But the most remarkable thing about this community is our ability to take something bad and turn it around, salvaging what has gone wrong and making it right again. We can't erase the experience the Serben family had in our community - but we can certainly show them the Fort McMurray love and let them know that the actions of one person do not and will not define our community. We can ensure they see our gratitude and our appreciation for what they do, and we can show them the real "big spirit" of our community. We can come out to the next Urban Market and support their business, their livelihood and their commitment to this community.

I think it's the least we can do when bad things happen in a good place, really.

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