(see photo gallery below)
It all started because of her love of pumpkins.
“Because of Halloween, I developed a love for pumpkins and wanted to grow some, and that’s how this all started,” Wendy Becenko said on a sunny Saturday morning last month as she greeted passersby with baskets and bags of fresh garden produce, trays of home-made pies and other baked goods and invitations to browse her tiny store filled with examples of the works of district artists and crafters.
Becenko, who has been operating a reflexology business for the past two years, said she has extended it into the Natural Reflexions Market, which she opens Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the farm where she and her husband Glen live. It’s on Highway No. 57 just 12 kilometres east of Kamsack.
Glen, an electrician who operates Power Built Electric Ltd., Wendy, and their daughter Makayla moved from Kamsack to their farm property three years ago and Wendy began gardening.
“This is a family affair,” she said, explaining how her husband helps with the gardening and construction of the 10foot by 10foot building located immediately off the highway, and containing signs to let everyone know that they’ve arrived at the market.
“And this keeps me out of an office,” she said, with an infectious laugh for which she is well known. “Here we have none of the stress of the corporate world.
“We’re connected to the earth. It’s amazing spiritually and I hope it continues forever.”
Becenko opened the market for the first time on July 4, selling produce from her garden as well as vegetables from the garden of Teesha KlochkoRies, who tends a garden located on the farm of her parents, Richard and Anita Klochko, immediately west of Kamsack.
They also filled a table with home-baked pies, buns and cookies and Becenko sold water kefir, a pro-biotic health drink she makes.
She contacted several friends who are artists and craftspersons or those who conduct home-based businesses and invited them to display their products in the small, ornate building Glen had constructed for her. Included with the hand-crafted jewellery, the knitting, the paintings, soaps and lotions and other crafts, she also carries Kamsack-made and grown products like quinoa and maple syrup.
It’s all high-quality stuff made by talented people, she said. But this was not the best year to start selling garden produce because gardeners have had many hurdles to deal with, she said, mentioning drought, a worm infestation and a late frost. But at least she is connected to the rural water pipeline so water is available for the garden.
Since the beginning of July, Becenko and KlochkoRies have been heading to their respective gardens on Fridays. They select what produce is ready or ripe, pick and prepare it, and have it all displayed on tables under an awning in time for the opening of the market at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
“It’s amazing. We’ve sold out of produce and baking each week.”
At the beginning of July their gardens gave them peas, green onions, lettuce and radish, and then by midAugust when she was interviewed for this story, they were selling cucumbers, potatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic, beans and tomatoes.
Everything that’s been picked has been washed and ready to go.
“It’s all healthy, pesticide-free produce,” she said.
“Three years ago, this was an alfalfa field,” she said of her one-acre garden, adding that connected to the garden is the beginning of an orchard where she has planted cherries, cranberries, apples, crab apples, plums, raspberries, saskatoons and haskap berries, which are also known as edible blue honeysuckle berries.
“We hope that by next year, we’ll be able to pick fruit from the young trees.”
A former Kamsack economic development officer, Becenko is a daughter of former residents Vaughn and Sue Binkley, now of Greenwater Provincial Park. Her parents moved to Kamsack when they, along with Vaughn’s brother Darryl, had acquired ownership of the Duck Mountain Lodge.
Growing up, she was always in the hospitality business; first at the lodge, and then being employed in Kamsack, particularly in economic development.
“Working here at the market I feel as though I’m still doing economic development for the area, but now it’s my own business,” Becenko said, explaining that studies have shown that 720 vehicles pass by here on the highway each day.
Many of those vehicles stop. She greets everyone she meets, is friendly and welcoming and has fresh, healthy products and beautiful arts and crafts to sell.
“I’d say about 70 per cent of the people who stop at the market are ‘lake people,’ those who are staying at cabins or in the campgrounds at Madge Lake,” she said, adding that this summer she’s met “people from all over.”
And she does not hesitate from sharing what information she has about the area and the locals who live here, with anyone who might ask.
“Tourism is a big and important industry in this area,” she said.
Becenko, and the market have an active Facebook presence. She keeps posting information, especially on what is being sold next Saturday, whose art and whose crafts will be available and what baked goods will be available.
Following are a sampling of her posts on Facebook.
“Great warm-you-up goodies are always available at market: beetniks and sauce available; special treat. Mom (the pie master) made three delicious rhubarb pies as well. Now that’s a treat. Yummy. Hope to see you at the market. “If you’re anything like me, you love receiving homemade gifts. It’s the same with homemade cards. And with that, I am so pleased to have Amber Trubiak’s homemade cards available for you at the market. Her cards are incredible. She has cards for every special occasion: birthday, anniversary, congratulations and others. Thanks for joining the team at the market, Amber.
“Sometimes you come across a product line that you find really and simply works. Young Living Essential Oils, surprisingly, is one of those products. I began to use (them) this March and I am loving how well they are working for me. When I get a headache, I apply peppermint oil to my neck and temples and its gone. When I get worked up and stressed, I use Peace and Calming or lemon-grass and I’m back to my old self.
“If you would ask me ‘What is the greatest part about opening the market?’ I would say, without a doubt, it’s getting to meet great people. People like Saskia Dockrill. Read her amazing story, from living off grid to her love of “ticker” training for horses. I am so glad to have met her and am stoked to have her participate in the market.
“I am so glad that I get to introduce to you to Richelle MacDonald of Sewing Mends My Soul. An amazing and talented artisan, Richelle has brought us unique headbands, bandanas, jewellery, bags, hot pads, towels, barbecue aprons and “sew” much more.”
Another artisan introduction is of Sharon Arbeau. “We have the cutest knit slippers as well as hanging barbecue towels and dish clothes made by our own talented Sharon Arbeau. Come on out. It’s worth the drive!”
Talking about Shellene Zolkavich, Becenko says she loves her crystal creations and is glad to call her a friend. Amazing outdoor furniture built by Togo artisan, Ron Andrews is now available at Natural Reflexions Market, she said. The pieces “are gorgeous and solidly built to entertain all your friends and family.”
“One-of-a-kind headbands, hats, bags, jewellery, hot pads and much, much more are available at the market open this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” another posting says. “It’s such a blessing to be able to bring these wonderful items to you. See you Saturday!”
Of course this season will not end until the pumpkins are picked prior to the coming of the frost.
“I’ll be inviting the kids to come out and hunt for their own pumpkins,” she said.
In addition to gardening, and knowing her way around a kitchen, Becenko is a craftsperson who enjoys working with her router. She proudly points to the sign on the market’s building and says that she designed and built it. She also spends time working with the books for her husband’s electrical business, and maintains an interest in the Kamsack community and is particularly involved with the board of the Garden of Saskatchewan Citizens’ Ring trust fund.
With her first season as a market gardener a considered success, Becenko is asked what she has in mind for the future.
“There is so much potential with a market garden,” she said. “Next year, of course, in addition to the garden and the baking, we hope to be able to sell some of the fruit from the orchard.
“I’d like to see this grow into a larger market garden where other vendors would come, rent tables and sell their produce, baking or arts and crafts.
“This is a wonderful place to spend a few hours late on a Saturday morning.”