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Food festival celebrates rosemary, flies flag for mental health

With warm weather approaching, it’s almost time for summer activities to start up again – and this includes the market and festival season. The Valley is a great place to be in the summer, and as COVID restrictions loosen, more and more events are being announced.

Le Domaine du Paysan, a nursery, farm, and garden centre in Saint-Stanislas-de-Kostka, is hosting its very first food festival on June 18. The festival will focus on a product that Le Domaine du Paysan is best known for: rosemary! Restaurants will be invited to participate and create a recipe using this featured ingredient. At the end of the festival, participants will be asked to vote for their favourite dish. The winner will receive a gift basket of local goods worth $250. Then, all the recipes of the day will be put into a cookbook which will be available in 2023.

Le Domaine du Paysan grows and sells rosemary and rosemary products. Proceeds raised by sales go towards mental health resources for farmers. Josée Lajeunesse (the owner of Le Domaine du Paysan) is a huge advocate for mental health. She works with the Union des Producteurs Agricole (UPA), dealing with mental health and suicide prevention. Recently, she was recognized during the ninth edition of the Gala of Agristars for her work with mental health in agriculture. She and the Beauharnois-Salaberry syndicate of the UPA were honoured with the Bon coup en santé psycologique for their Récoltons l’espoir project. This project’s logo features a sprig of rosemary in a heart; Lajeunesse says, “I want this logo to be as recognizable as a poppy; so that you immediately think of mental health.”

 

The Domaine du Paysan will be holding the first edition of the Festival de la Gourmandise on June 18, which will focus on one key ingredient: rosemary.  PHOTO Le Domaine du Paysan

 

Lajeunesse is organizing the event but says she has learned to spread the workload around, because she just doesn’t have enough hands to manage the whole job. “It’s become so big that I have an organization committee. I had to pass stuff off to others because it was too much.” Though it’s so much work, she’s having so much fun doing it.

Lajeunesse emphasizes that mental health is not something that should be taken lightly. She became involved in mental health services while working with the UPA and says, “With what I’ve seen working with the UPA, I’m in it with my whole heart.” When she started, she says she “was shocked with how much help was needed.” Farmers are often isolated from others, as they are so busy and tend to work alone. This means that their mental health issues can often go unnoticed. Lajeunesse says, “Mental health and suicide prevention is not a sickness or something we’re making up. It’s important to talk about it and get help. It can be as simple as a phone call.”

On the day of the festival, various mental health services will be available. One will be the Au coeur des familles agricoles (ACFA) organization. “These people do amazing work and so much work for suicide prevention. The government only covers 75 per cent of their services. So, I started selling rosemary to raise money for them. For each product I sell, one dollar goes to them.” Another organisation that will be present is Le Tournant, a crisis and suicide prevention centre based in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield that serves the surounding region including the Haut-Saint-Laurent.

The day will be a day for all ages! And Lajeunesse makes it clear that all are invited. Everyone from restaurants, firefighters, mental health services, media, and residents from the Haut-Saint-Laurent and beyond will be welcome. There is a lot of excitement for this event and for the opportunity to spread mental health awareness across the Valley.

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