By Brianna Yee

Those familiar with the Cochrane Farmers’ Market recognize that Valerie McCracken is the Market’s heart and soul. Established in 1998 and still going strong, the Cochrane Farmers’ Market would not be what it is today without the continual guidance and support Valerie offers as a volunteer. As the Market Manager since 2009, she has built on the work of previous Manager Chris Pike, providing an invaluable service to the citizens of Cochrane.

For years, residents of Cochrane and those in the surrounding area have been enjoying the Market and access to its vendors, enjoying fresh produce, baking, crafts and handmade goods. It’s no wonder that Valerie earned the 2020 Order of Cochrane Award for her volunteer work and perseverance throughout a year that included unprecedented challenges. Last year’s Market necessitated new restrictions, rules, and even relocations. Fortunately, under Valerie’s direction, the Market was still able to function and even thrive.

Regular customers have been extremely grateful for the effort she has put into keeping the Market running, and many note that Cochrane wouldn’t be the same without it. Valerie is the very definition of ‘resilient’ as she continues to evolve with the new demands of changing times. By advocating for the Market’s vendors, she helps to provide a way for the citizens of Cochrane to support local, and to help raise awareness about local small businesses.

The small businesses of Cochrane and the surrounding area have been hit hard due to COVID-19, and having a space where they are still able to sell their goods is crucial for many, allowing them to stay afloat. Through her efforts, Valerie has not only provided these local businesses with an outlet, but also gives citizens the opportunity to improve their lifestyles and support the environment by purchasing healthier products that are sourced closer-to-home.

Although Valerie received the award through an online ceremony, the honour was no less memorable. Mayor Jeff Genung made the presentation, during which Valerie was acknowledged for more than 20 years of volunteer work, and for the way she regularly inspires others to support community initiatives whenever they can.

With the 2020 Order of Cochrane Award, we celebrate the efforts Valerie has made to ensure the continuation of the Market during challenging times—and we look forward to seeing her with her signature red hat at the Market by the Bow starting June 5!