Cattle are a major part of farming. They can be used for meat, milk and for other purposes like fertilizer.
Whether you want to start a small farm or a large one, there are certain steps that have to be taken before planting any seeds or buying livestock. This article talks about those steps.
Everything came together for Serge Proulx in 2016 on a trip to southern France when he took a bite of a fresh fig plucked from a tree in Brittany and had a brainwave.
He had long been searching for a project and tasting the “succulent” fruit typically grown in warm climates in the Mediterranean made him realize he might be able to grow them closer to home — in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
In his early retirement, Proulx had been taking courses at an agricultural institute and was looking for a way to use the land he had purchased in 1998 in Melbourne, Que.
“That’s when it all clicked,” said Proulx.
“There was a process that began and the question was whether to grow them in open fields or in greenhouses …. as my family and I are not from the farming world, I chose to grow in a greenhouse because I was thinking ahead for the long-term future of our operation.”
Seven years later, he and his four children run La Vallée du Moulin — an agro-tourism farm that he says is the first producer of figs in Quebec.
‘My father’s legacy’
Before joining her father’s team as the co-owner, Mylène Proulx worked in health care, while her siblings worked as a teacher, veterinary technician and electrical technician.
“It’s really in the last few years that I think our interest changed. We were always interested in nature, my father always had land where we could go,” said Mylène.
“Agriculture is really new to us, but we really enjoyed that and the challenge … It’s really my father’s legacy.”
The 93-hectare property has 2,000 trees, says Mylène — all of which are housed in three high-tech greenhouses which are heated all year round.
Despite the fact that her family’s approach might be uncommon, she says that growing the fruit in-province not only produces high-quality produce but ensures figs are responsibly sourced.
“The figs that we [often] eat in Quebec are from the Mediterranean area, so they take a long ride, a long boat ride [which] is not very good for the environment,” said Mylène.
“When you pick a fig, it has to be the perfect moment because when you pick it, it doesn’t keep ripening after … So having it in Quebec, here, you can really taste the fresh ones and their perfect sweetness and perfect taste.”
‘A project that’s not easy’: Years in the making
As the only organic fig producer in the province, she says one of the biggest challenges relates to climate control and balancing the population of insects on their property.
“It’s really in our values to have no chemicals in there. It wouldn’t be right for the environment,” said Mylène.
“My family wants to make it a protected area in the future.”
This particular business has been a long process requiring patience. Years prior, before growing the fig trees, Proulx — an electrical engineer — restored the nearby dam and built a mill on the property that provides hydroelectricity for the greenhouses.
“The mill took me eight to 10 years, built slowly every year … So it’s not a short-term project,” said Proulx, adding that it also took seven years for fig trees to produce fruit.
“We are people who take on challenges. This is a project that’s not easy but it sure is interesting. I think it’s no fun if something is too easy.”
For now, he says the farm does not produce enough figs to sell at a grocery store, as they grow 20 varieties and harvest twice a year. They offer tours of their property — where people can sample produce, including the honey and maple syrup from the property.
He hopes to continue this recent family project for years to come.
“My goal is to pass on a legacy to my kids and my entrepreneurial spirit,” said Proulx.
“So this spirit can be passed on to another generation.”