A local and his self-described yokels are offering up a unique way to not only buy some quality meat, produce, and crafts just in time for Christmas, but a way to feel good about donating to those less fortunate at the same time.
The Local Yokels Market will be offering locally raised Angus beef, locally sourced fruit and vegetables, and artisan wares every weekend in December, and 10 per cent of their take will go into a pot for families in need.
The market operates year-round, but the donations are taking place in December.
Todd Simmer is the Cochrane-area rancher/market manager/co-owner in charge of making the initiative all come together.
“The reason we want to do this is there’s a lot of families that are struggling right now, and we have good quality food – our local food – local makers and bakers and growers are the whole reason for this place,” Simmer said.
It also gives producers a chance to give customers a chance to buy their meat, fruit, and produce locally, without a lot of shipping and handling costs.
“We’re just starting out and we don’t have, you know, a lot of cash, but this is something we can do, where we can redirect sales, and we can do our best to help people. And they’re going to get real quality food,” Simmer said.
There is everything from artisan breads, to micro greens, to honey, to artwork and crafts, to a handmade frozen pizza that regular customers are raving about.
“The beef is top of the food chain. And the pizza – it’s authentic Italian pizza,” Simmer said. “There’s even talk online that we might have the best pizza in town.”
Simmer related a story about a man who bought one pizza, then returned a week later to get three more, saying, “This is exactly the way it tastes in Florence.”
The Angus beef comes from Hamilton Farms, about 20 minutes north of Cochrane. Simmer said "it doesn't come any better."
The artisan bread maker (who left his career as an architect to pursue his love of baking) makes a variety of sourdough loaves, cinnamon buns, and other foods.
At the end of each sales day, Simmer will total up the receipts, and then pick some items from the shelves that add up to 10 per cent of that figure, and put them in a freezer that has been generously donated for the cause already. The contents will then be distributed appropriately, and at the end of the project, there will be a last prize.
“We’re going to give the freezer away too,” Simmer said.
In the spirit of the season, since his wife posted their idea to Facebook recently, someone came forward and gave them a freezer.
They opened their market on Labour Day weekend in early September, and business has been good since then.
Simmer said one thing that prompted them to get the market going was when he observed what was happening to beef prices after the drought in 2021. He has a quarter section of land about 10 minutes north of Cochrane.
“The second the media put out that beef prices were going up, the grocery stores put prices up and up and up. None of the ranchers that I know – none of them – changed our prices,” he said.
Simmer clearly has a bone to pick with how the big chains dealt with prices for his commodity.
“Not only did they take it out of the producer, they gouged the consumers, and then blamed it on the farmer, saying it was the drought and high prices,” he argued.
So that’s when he thought there must be a more local and sustainable way, and the idea for Local Yokels was hatched.
On their spread north of town, besides cattle, the Simmers have chickens, horses, and dogs on their land.
“Lots of dogs,” Simmer said as his voice trailed off, finishing his list. “We have five dogs right now.”
Ranchers have various answers to the question of whether they name their livestock or not – it often elicits either a grin or at least a rolling of the eyes.
Simmer admitted, with a sigh, they do name them.
“We have six kids too, so yeah, we name them,” he said.
Duke is the prize sire Angus bull that is responsible for at least some of their profits. Duke’s dad was an award-winning show bull that sold for $150,000. He is Simmer’s buddy.
“Oh yeah, I rub his eyes, scratch his chin, I mean you’re always on guard, because . . . whoo, they’re big,” he said.
The market will be open at 365 Railway St. W, from noon to 7 p.m. on Fridays and 10 to 4 on Saturdays. The donation of the 10 per cent goes from now until Christmas.
The whole initiative will be done in-house. Simmer asks families in need, or anyone who knows of a family in need, to contact him at 403-899-6784. He says they will meet privately and discreetly with anyone who reaches out.
And they will have a freezer to give away at the end of it.