This upcoming Mother’s Day marks the first of almost 60 years without my Mom. She passed away in March, having lived nearly 97 years. She was our last living parent, and I want to take this final opportunity to honour Mom, one of four people without whom Lepp Farm Market likely would not exist.
Each of our parents instilled within us the love of farming, wholesome home-cooked food, a strong work ethic and our responsibility to be charitable to our family and community. During Stalin’s brutal reign, Mom was born in Ukraine and became a World War Two refugee as her family fled to Europe. She and Dad were reunited and married in Germany and secured a family sponsor to come to Canada. In the spring of 1948, Mom, Dad, and my then-infant brother made the trek to Abbotsford, the final leg by rail across the vast Canadian lands, their train passing right by the flooded location of the future Lepp Farm Market.
Mom’s life was not easy, and I get weary thinking of all her responsibilities. She and Dad purchased a 10-acre wooded property on Gladwin Road, which they cleared to build a poultry and berry farm. While Dad worked his day job on the railroad, Mom cared for the children, ran the farm, and fed and nurtured the family. It wasn’t until I arrived, the seventh child and baby of the family, that Dad could work full-time on the farm and ease some of her burdens. Cooking was never Mom’s favourite duty, but with so many mouths to feed, there was no choice. She would churn out piles of golden-brown homemade buns, saucy cabbage rolls, aromatic roast chickens, kettles of hearty homemade soups, and forever her grandchildren’s favourite, brown Oma Cookies. Looking to find a willing helper, she was determined to teach me how to cook, and I’m so grateful for her gift of a 1970 Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook and an Easy-Bake Oven. Undoubtedly, the exotic-sounding Raggedy Ann Salad and Mad Hatter Meatball recipes inspired my love of creating food!
Her childhood years of starvation made it impossible for her to waste food. She could often be seen rummaging around in our produce department, trying to rescue the over-ripe and about-to-be-tossed apricots for her family’s favourite jam. Now I’m the one scouring the fruit bins, sourcing the perfect apricots to gift each family member a jar of her jam at Christmas.
You can find two of our family’s favourite recipes on our website. The potato salad and crumb cake recipes are simple, hearty dishes, but it took me a surprising amount of effort to nail them down! Scroll to the bottom of the potato salad recipe to read the comical exchange between us six siblings as I tried to perfect Mom’s dressing. This Christmas, I’ll try and recreate her brown Oma cookies with an updated recipe. While I doubt few people will bother making them, our family will have this heritage recipe recorded for future generations.
Mom loved a long, healthy life with a keen mind to the end. But she was weary, frail, and longed to go to heaven. Yet she walked the halls of her care home until the day before her death, greeting her fellow residents as she peered into their rooms. Mom modelled perseverance, courage and strength through many difficult life circumstances. We laid her to rest with love and appreciation for her unconditional acceptance and the sacrificial love she displayed until her last breath.