Until mid-July, the St. Albert Farmers’ Market will host a bakers-dozen of entrepreneurs from around the globe. The initiative is the brainchild of market veteran Laura Rogerson, creator of Breadlove artisan breads/baking.
When new immigrants come to Canada with little to nothing – neither language or economic/social supports – they may still have the recipes of their homeland tucked in their minds. That simple notion can be the opening that connects newcomers to their community, according to St. Albert entrepreneur Laura Rogerson, owner of Breadlove Artisan Bakehouse and Bread School, and a St. Albert Farmers’ Market staple who started a program for 13 such newcomers to the capital region.
Make It, Bake It, Grow It is a six-week program for 13 men and women from countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Colombia who will learn how to take a food-focused idea and bring it to market. The latter half of the program will bring the new entrepreneurs to a central space in our city’s market. It opened June 10 and runs until July 15.
“I call it creating entrepreneurs without borders. We’ll help develop products and take it for a trial run at a pop-up market and then six weeks at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market,” says Rogerson. “These people are motivated to improve their lives. They want to share their culture and their native foods – breads, sausages, ratatouilles, pastries – and at the same time learn about food production and safety, selling skills, budgeting. The market experience will help with English skills too, when customers want to know ‘is this vegetarian? or ‘does this have nuts?”
Volunteer translators will work with participants through the program, which is being supported by the City of Edmonton and many non-profits: 1000 Families, Boyle Street Community Services and Bissell Centre. Loubna Laaouard, an Arabic-speaking lifeguard at Clareview Recreation Centre is also the co-director with ABC Emballuxe, which is offering the project participants a discount on food packaging supplies.
“In northeast Edmonton, we’re always trying to enrich communities and build relationships,” says Marilyn McLean-Bourgeois, Community Building Social Worker out of the city’s Clareview site. “People with culinary skills and entrepreneurial ideas may face barriers and not know how to begin. Laura’s idea helps create cultural understanding – to bake bread together and break bread together.”
Agatha Grochowski, manager of the St. Albert Farmers’ Market, says it’s a no-brainer to support Make It, Bake It, Grow It, as it aligns with the Chamber and market’s values of supporting new entrepreneurs. “The St. Albert market is an incubator for business. It’s a way to start out – look at the many success stories than started with us: Confetti Sweets, Happy Camel and many others that now have a storefront operation,” she says. “My own parents were immigrants, so I understand the need for initiatives like Laura’s. It’s important to provide an opportunity for those just starting out.”
Rogerson says she’s thankful that the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce is on board to promote the project and give the group an all-together space in a featured part of the market for the duration of their stay. “I can’t speak highly enough about their support.”
Charging participants just $25 – modest to some, but a challenge to others – gives people ownership in the program, says Rogerson. Strong response means plans are already underway to do a second session and even more of Make it, Bake It, Grow it.
“We all sit at the same table and can learn from each other,” Rogerson says. “I had the will to create the program, but others have the skills to make this happen.”