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Film explores how farming meets ‘rewilding’ 

Les Bontés de la Vallée, owned by François D’Aoust, is an organic fruit and vegetable farm in Havelock. Run by D’Aoust and Mélina Plante, the operation centers on regenerative environmental practices applied to sustainable agriculture. This unique approach has made the farm the subject of an upcoming French-language documentary, Humus, by Quebec filmmaker Carole Poliquin. Poliquin’s work is often focused on social and political issues, and Humus is no exception.

D’Aoust originally intended to work in environmentalism, and it was the environmental aspect of agriculture that drew him to farming. He bought his land and started working on it in 2007, and while the farm is 40 acres, only between six and seven acres are under cultivation. The rest is left to “rewild,” a process in which an ecosystem is left alone to take care of itself, repair damage, and eventually return to its natural rhythms.

 

A still from the documentary shows market gardener François DAoust on his land where he practices regenerative agriculture PHOTO Humus le film Facebook

 

“I wanted to farm in a way that was regenerative,” says D’Aoust. “The way we cultivate the earth depletes the earth’s resources. We’re destroying the earth in order to feed ourselves. It can’t last.” He says that we cannot just take the methods we currently use for farming and just make them “green,” but rather, we need to completely rethink how we farm from the bottom up as well as how we consume food. It is this radical approach that Poliquin is documenting.

D’Aoust and Plante worked on the documentary with Poliquin for four years. “The most intense year for us was the year she came to film, the 2019 season,” says Plante. “She wanted to follow us for a complete year, so that was pretty intense. We had 25 consecutive full days of filming on the farm; we also had to keep working the farm like any other season. It was quite a balancing act.” Farming is a fluid and ever-changing practice, so it can be difficult to plan a filming schedule, considering as well the logistics of getting an entire film crew out to a rural area.

Such an enterprise also requires diligent collaboration between the filmmaker and the subjects. Everyone needs to be on the same page about what is going to be filmed and why, since there is a finite amount of time available. When asked if they enjoyed the process, D’Aoust says, “It was fun; we don’t often have the occasion to talk about what we do, so I really valued the days we filmed. It gave me the chance to share my passion and vision. It was a lot of time and work, but I enjoyed it.”

The pair is hopeful that the film’s impact will be greater than simply being informative about their practices; they hope it will inspire people to make substantial changes in their lives and affect change. After all, D’Aoust and Plante didn’t get into farming simply for the love of it, but rather to do their part in creating a future they believe in.

 

The poster advertising the launch of the documentary PHOTO Humus le film Facebook

 

“There’s this idea in our capitalist society that we’re all required to work hard to assure our individual survival, but [farmers] are suffering,” says Plante. “We can’t go on with doing agriculture like any other business venture because we all need to eat. There needs to be big change in the industry, and I feel like that can’t happen with this weight on farmers’ shoulders.” 

She goes on to explain that while farmers deserve a dignified wage, profit can’t be the only reason people grow food, as food is essential to life. Farmers living well and communities being fed should be equal goals. “We need to make necessary changes, even if those changes cost money, and we need to assume those costs collectively, especially considering the acceleration of climate change,” she says. “Feeding communities needs to be a collective task – our survival depends on it.”

Humus will be premiering in Quebec May 20. For more information on the film, as well as where to view it, check out the Facebook page, Humus le film, or the website, maison4tiers.com/produit/humus

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