146, ch Covey Hill, Hemmingford – (514) 799-7188 – www.lafermette.ca
After two years of working and learning at Ferme des Quatre Temps, two young ladies, Annie-Claude Lauzon and Justine Chouinard, started an organic market gardening business on a small farm on Covey Hill Road.
They both studied at UQAM in Montreal. Annie-Claude got her Master’s in Environmental Sciences, and Justine obtained a Bach in Visual Arts and started a Master’s in Environmental Design. They were very interested in social and environmental issues and wanted to participate in social change at their level, exploring other concepts. This is what attracted them to Quatre Temps, a school whose goal is to develop farmers of the future.
Annie-Claude explained that she was very interested in the experimental farm, and especially to be working with Jean Martin Fortier, author of the book Le Jardinier Maraîcher (The Market Gardner), that talks about bio-intensive farming methods. Bio-intensive works on a small surface, hardly mechanized, inspired by the workers gardens around Paris that fed the city in the 19th century. By now, many techniques have been developed for successfully growing fresh vegetables intensively on a small surface. La Fermette, which is only a hectare in size, is based on this model.
All the work is done naturally, through composting. The soil is nourished and fertilized organically. Since there is no tractor, it isn’t necessary to adapt the garden to machinery passing through, which saves space. There is a greenhouse for growing eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, etc. Succession crops are grown in the same space – which means, start the season with spinach. Once it has all been harvested, plant carrots in the same space. Then a final planting of arugula. So, three sequences of vegetables, earning a suitable return in a small space.
Organic fertilizer is necessary to nourish the soil. Planting thirty-odd vegetables tightly together, reduces the risk of insects, diseases, etc. In organic gardening, we need a model that is as resilient as possible. Having biodiversity, allowing the growth of wild plants, attracts colonizing and beneficial insects. It allows the creation of a much better balance than a field with only one product.
La Fermette started up in partnership with two Montreal restaurant owners, who wanted fresh produce. The girls were ready to leave Quatre Temps. They wanted to start a cooperative project, where they wouldn’t be isolated in their work. Forming a partnership with restaurants allowed them to work with a creator who used their products, and in collaboration with a team in Montreal, which helped them to build an infrastructure. They grow, among other vegetables: cucumbers, radishes, turnips, squash, beets, arugula, beans, etc., and some experimental and specialty vegetables, such as dandelion leaves. The first testers are the restaurants. If it’s a success, the vegetable is added to their range of products.
The harvest goes to two markets in Montreal. One is Des Éclusiers in the Old Port. The second one is located next door to their partner-restaurant, La Buvette Chez Simone in Plateau Mont-Royal.
La Fermette sells their vegetables until mid-November. The greenhouse closes up in mid-October and all attention turns to vegetables that tolerate the cold. Spinach, Nantes carrots, the cabbage family…. In February, it’s time to plan the new season.
The girls really enjoy Hemmingford. It’s their fourth year here. They have met some wonderful people and they really love how people get involved in the environment, in the community. It’s part of their value system as well. And the climate is very favourable for a longer growing season.
Having an organic farm is important to Annie-Claude and Justine. During the ’70s, farmers brought about a green revolution. But the problem is more systemic than that. The girls wouldn’t want to denounce those who use chemical pesticides. They would rather show that another way to cultivate is possible. An important nuance, because they have a lot of respect for all farmers. Theirs is not an easy job.
Come visit La Fermette, but call first. Come and get fresh organic vegetables every Friday afternoon. The kiosk is open from 4pm to 6pm.
We wish them good luck and lots of courage!