One of the most well known market gardeners in St. Albert was Mary Sernowski (née Chipl). She was born in 1907 in the Polish Ukraine, formerly the Galician region of Austria. By the age of eight, Mary had already lost both of her parents. Her aunt sent her to work for a family in a different village but Mary was not paid or properly fed and was very unhappy. Luckily, she met a land agent in the village who promised to help her emigrate to either Argentina or Canada. She chose Canada. At the age of 21 she arrived alone in Chipman, Alberta.

Mary worked for a number of farmers in the areas around Chipman, Willingdon and Mundare. She eventually left the area, walking to Edmonton where a friend found her work in their family restaurant. Again the working conditions were poor, but she soon met the restaurant’s potato supplier, Peter Sernowski. Peter was from the same region of the Polish Ukraine. They were married in 1934.

Peter and Mary moved into a two-room shack on five acres of land in St. Albert and began to raise a family. They sold their vegetables and picked potatoes for their neighbours to make ends meet. They even took sacks of animal bones to Edmonton to sell for fertilizer. Around 1940, Mary and Peter began to sell vegetables, and occasionally chickens, at the Edmonton City Market. They would leave St. Albert around 5:00 am with a wagonload of goods, returning twelve hours later.

Mary loved the market and its people. It was where she felt most at home. For nearly fifty years she presided over her stall, becoming one of the best known and loved vendors. Mary was also one of the first vendors at the St. Albert Farmer’s Market when it opened in 1982. Mary worked her market stall in Edmonton until a few months before her death. She was 91 years old.

Peter Sernowski and Mary Chipl wedding, 1934. Musée Héritage Museum, St. Albert Historical Society fonds