And the winner is…us!

Web Lead

When Creston Valley Farmers’ Market manager Jen Comer headed west a couple of weeks ago in the company of her husband, Joel, and their daughter, Aspen, she was looking forward to her family’s first two-week “vacation.”

It wasn’t to be 14 days of lying on a beach or hitting the ski slopes. Like most young couples, the Comers’ life is a constant juggle of priorities. Joel was going to take in a tech show and Jen was looking forward to the annual conference of the BC Farmers’ Market Association, which has provided her with support and friendship in her four years as our own market manager. Aspen, now 4, would be in the company of one parent, or both, depending on their schedules.

I had a lengthy and lovely meeting with Jen on Saturday to interview her for this week’s front page story. And I couldn’t resist asking if she had any clue that she would be returning to Creston with awards.

“That’s a funny story,” she laughed. Several days before they were to leave, Joel asked Jen if there were still tickets available for her conference’s awards banquet.

“He never goes to things like that!” Joel’s not a social butterfly like his wife, and there would be the question of Aspen, who couldn’t just be left in their AirBnB room, and wouldn’t likely be able to sit through an entire evening of adult stuff. In the end, Joel stayed back with his daughter.

Jen admitted that she did drag out some information from her husband, learning that she had been nominated for the Market Manager of the Year Award by her board of directors.

“That was exciting, but that’s all I thought about it.”

When her name was announced, Jen described her pounding heartbeat and shaky hands, and about how the next few minutes became a blur.

Only minutes later she was once again called to the podium, this time to accept Creston Valley Farmers’ Market banner as BC’s medium sized market of the year.

It was a pretty cool night for a woman who has become a dynamic force in our community in the years since she and Joel made the decision to leave great professional prospects in Victoria for rural life in the Creston Valley. Jen had been hired as our farmers’ market’s first paid manager on the basis of a telephone conference call. Good choice, interviewers!

I managed the market for a spell back when the Creston Rotary Club took it over rather than see it fade away, so I take special pride in what has happened in the ensuing years. Jen Comer brought more than just an infectious smile and endless enthusiasm to her job. She is representative of a generation of educated and passionate younger people who desperately want to make their lives meaningful, even if it means financial struggle. Better to live a life of substance and balance than to chase the brass ring we associate with professional status and financial success, is their preference.

With degrees in Geography, Jen and Joel didn’t arrive back in the Kootenays (she was raised in Nelson, he in Creston) with much hope of jobs that would put those skills directly to use, either in the public or private sector. But they are savvy in the digital world, and have values that transcend temptation to take up the money chase that inevitably leads back to urban centres. Both have pursued opportunities that might not have come their way if they had remained in a city. It isn’t very likely, I’m sure, that Jen would have run for public office in Victoria at such a young age, and even less likely that she would have succeeded. As a Town Councillor, she is just what those of us who knew her and supported her expected. She is a strong, independent voice, always well-prepared, and never afraid to ask questions or debate issues. It is clear that she has the ear, and total respect, of her fellow councillors, and it is a joy to think that we have a young leader who has integrity and a genuine passion for the people she represents.

During our conversation on the weekend, we spoke about many topics, and never once did I get a sense that ego is involved in her drive to participate and lead. She has a clear vision of what kind of world she wants for her family and, lucky for us, it seems to be in sync with much of what is happening in the Creston Valley these days.

I wish to congratulate Jen on her awards and thank her for her contributions to making ours a better place to live. And I also want to acknowledge Joel, the other half of a couple that shows us all by their example that we live in a wonderful community, and that there is much work yet to be done.