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Open Sky Co-operative starts new tradition to honour an old friend

A group in Sackville New Brunswick came together Wednesday to not only honour an old friend, but to continue on her legacy.

At Open Sky Co-operative, the kitchen was full with many hands working towards a common goal – pickling produce in tribute of Heather Smith.

“Heather had an impact on Open Sky over the years,” said executive director, Laura Hunter.

“From the very start she was a strong supporter of the idea of a place, especially a farm based and land based place that was serving the needs of neuro-divergent young adults.”

Smith passed away last November, but she left her mark on the community. At Open Sky she was involved in many different projects from fundraisers to even helping build a section of their building.

Today, she is remembered fondly for her endless support, personality and her love of pickling, which was a real passion of hers according to those who knew her.

“She enjoyed the little things and supporting people in the area,” said her daughter Nicola Keeling and her husband, Blane Smith.

“She was a huge supporter of the local people and wanted to work together and make the area a good place to live and make good food for her family. It was always fun to see the cold room fill up.”

They said it was a common activity at their house in the fall and one of Heather’s favourite things to do.

“If anybody was coming over to visit they would join in with the shelling or the digging or whatever we were working on in the garden,” said Keeling.

“Some of the friends that are here today would’ve been working on grapes or peas, getting them ready for bottling,” added Smith.

Open Sky received donations in her name after her passing, which sparked this new tradition of pickling in her honour.

“When we asked about what we could do to honour her, they felt that doing something that involved the community and harvest, she loved to pickle and preserve produce, and so we felt that having a community pickling day would be a tribute to her,” said Hunter.

Adding, “we just hope to share that sense of community that Heather really encouraged in her own business and in her family […] but for our participants, for neuro-divergent young adults in this community, it’s really wonderful when we can bring them together and have the community know their skills and see their skills, see the ways that the contribute to being apart of the community.”

Open Sky works with neuro-divergent adults between the age of 18-30 and provides a space where “they can slow down or catch up primarily after high school,” according to Hunter.

After years of having Heather involved, Open Sky is now making sure that she will remain a part of their traditions by naming this the first official Heather Smith Day of Pickling.

“Heather liked to keep things simple, so she would probably say it’s way too much fuss,” said Hunter.

“She’s very humble, but I think if she were here and could be apart of it, she would love it.”

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