Motivated, inspired, proud – the 10 finalists of the 2019 edition of the contest tell their stories. We invite you to read the summaries offered here. We hope that you will have as much fun as we did in discovering them!
Ferme Kobec (Wagyu cattle)
Mélissa Daigle was Quebec’s first breeder of purebred Wagyu cattle, recognized internationally as providing excellent quality meat. The breed being almost non-existent in North America, Mélissa and her spouse started their activities with a cow, two heifers, and a few embryos. The herd now has 60 animals and will soon have 90. The wait to buy her beef lasts nearly two years! In the future, Mélissa wishes to better meet the prevailing demand and to make this exceptional meat better known in the Quebec market. “We want to become a benchmark both for the quality of the meat and for the genetics of the subjects. We want Kobec beef to have its own designation.” Mélissa also intends to continue to train in her specialization by going to Japan, the country of origin of the Wagyu.
Ferme Chapeau Melon (organic vegetables)
François Biron chose to specialize exclusively in niche products such as melons and to produce them in large quantities while extending the harvest period thanks to his cold frame greenhouses. His marketing strategy with new products is very special indeed. He constantly seeks to achieve the best returns possible, to keep his production costs under control, and to carefully train his workforce. The upgrading of each element, of each parcel of land, is a priority for François. He likes to pass on this quest for excellence to the upcoming generation, including the agriculture trainees and school dropouts he employs. “I chose a job that allows me to push my limits and to take care of the planet. Sharing this passion and giving back to the community are what keep me going.”
Ferme Patrick Leblanc (hog breeding and cash crops)
Agriculture provides Patrick Leblanc with the opportunity to push his limits and fulfill himself as an individual. Since buying his farm, he has focused on optimizing all assets. Technical and technological improvements are intended to position him advantageously in the market, while respecting animal welfare. Best performing farm practices and innovative solutions are his keys to meeting the challenges he has set for himself. Already featuring 40 hectares of crops and 1,780 hogs, his company is expanding. His crop returns are 25% higher than reference yields in the market. As a teacher, he has a privileged relationship with the upcoming generation: “I try to play the role of mentor with students who want to start their own businesses. The contact with them is inspiring. It enables me to see a different reality, to be more creative.”
Ferme porcine de Beauce (hog breeding)
For Michel Dutil, standing out as a producer of purebred hogs through the sale of hybrid gilts is both a challenge and a source of pride. He takes every necessary step to select the best subjects in order to reproduce and improve the genetics of the herd. “Customer satisfaction is our best publicity! We’ll continue to do genetics for as long as the demand is there.” Michel’s studies in agronomy, risk management, and auto mechanics mean that he is a versatile entrepreneur, capable of spearheading multiple projects. Whether computerizing his systems or establishing a rigorous biosecurity protocol, all his initiatives aim to improve the quality and well-being of his animals.
Ferme Belle Roche (organic vegetables)
At the age of 23 and with a modest sum of $10,000 to invest, Caroline Bélanger started her own company. Today, Caroline and her spouse distribute baskets of organic vegetables from their farm to 160 weekly subscribers. Her sales have increased eight-fold since the project’s inception. She produces around 40 varieties of vegetables and fresh herbs, some until the onset of winter, without a heated greenhouse! All profits are reinvested. At the farm or at public markets, Caroline finds greatest satisfaction in her human relations. “I like to know the people I feed. I write a newsletter each week when a basket is offered, featuring information about the farm and the vegetables, and providing recipe ideas as well. I also share our daily life very honestly, enabling customers to feel an even greater connection with our farm.”
Ferme Fredami (poultry)
As a child, Frédéric Emery Dufresne loved to accompany his father during the latter’s henhouse rounds. Frédéric created his small business while studying business management. Even with his knowledge and interests, he had to prove to his parents that the farm was more than a hobby and that he was mature enough to purchase it. Convinced of his entrepreneurial spirit, Frédéric undertook to renovate two obsolete buildings, creating a capacity to house 105,000 more chickens per year. He modernized and optimized most of the facilities and endeavoured to ensure the animals’ well-being. In two years, turnover increased by 33% and net profits doubled. “I worked diligently and intelligently to move the business forward, exceeding my forecasts and my expectations… and those of my parents as well!”
Les Fermes Bégin (grain and cattle)
By creating his first business, Maxime Bégin wanted to gain experience before taking the plunge: buying back the family farm with his brother. Mission accomplished. “Our vision and our business decisions have enabled us to gradually increase our equity and create wealth, so as to successfully realize our expansion plan.” Today, Maxime’s farm, which specializes in beef and grain, stands out in many ways, including for its hormone-free superior-quality meat and its category 1 grains. Maxime also diversified his production, notably by introducing sweet corn, a novel vegetable for his region. Thanks to u-pick and social media, Maxime keeps in close touch with his clientele. He wants to inspire and energize the agricultural community, while helping to feed the local population.
Ferme la Bourrasque (various organic vegetables)
Philippe Benoit worked on movie sets before plunging into what really turns him on, namely the production of organic vegetables. He trained with the best experts and grew his business, little by little, with his spouse by his side. Workforce issues represented a challenge, so he made use of creativity to guarantee staff retention and adopted an employee appreciation approach. “We put people first, before other concerns, because we want the company to be at the service of the people who work for it, not the other way around.” Over time, he developed different sales channels, including metropolitan public markets, hospitals, schools, and daycare centres. The latter two groups of facilities alone receive more than 1,600 baskets in season. “We’re faced with new paradigms in the agricultural world, and being open to exploratory approaches is the order of the day in all spheres of the company.”
Ferme Geneviève et Bruno Bessette (organic milk production)
La Conception, Laurentides
Despite facing start-up obstacles, Geneviève Brassard persevered. She rented a farm and purchased 15 cows. Today, she’s a flourishing businesswoman. “I’m proud of the person I’ve become. I’m determined, perseverant, and forever smiling.” Organic milk is increasingly popular and sales are soaring, so Geneviève’s product commands a significantly higher price than does conventional milk. Having surpassed her initial projected earnings, she bought her own land, built a stable, and obtained organic certification. Geneviève is a socially committed businesswoman whose mission is to educate schoolchildren about the different facets of agriculture and teach women about the realities of female farmers. She gives conferences during which she honestly and openly addresses subjects such as work-family balance, time management, and her own professional and personal challenges.
Sucrerie du Lac Blanc (organic maple syrup)
By purchasing a sugar busrine Douville wanted to create her own job, offer a future to her children… and lead a rustic life in a cabin! The first years were difficult. “I had little inexperience in this field. I had difficulty integrating my own business. But we women entrepreneurs are always overcoming obstacles.” Karine went from 56,000 to 82,000 sap extraction connections. She more than doubled production at the boiling centre, where she also boils syrup for other local businesses. And she succeeded all on her own! Over time, she trained, got actively involved with various groups, and stayed true to herself. Her management style is based on collaboration with her 20 or so employees, whom she calls her experts. She believes in pooling their individual strengths. In the future, she’s looking for a share of the international market!