“It was interesting to see how everything worked at the different stops, and it is safe to say I learnt something at each stop,” said Howick 4-H club president Madison Peddie about the Innovative Ag Tour recently held in the Eastern Townships. The 4-H Quebec website describes the event as an opportunity to “learn innovative agricultural practices, feeding techniques, business practices, architectural possibilities, and careers.”
A tradition that started in 1982 as the Livestock Management Tour, the event suffered a last-minute cancellation at the outset of the pandemic before switching to virtual visits in 2021 and 2022. This year, 60 participants gathered from March 10 to 12 for the tour organized by the Richmond 4-H Club. “It gave us a chance to catch up with members of different clubs and spend time with local members we know,” said Peddie, who was one of six youth attending from the Valley.
The bus and accompanying minivan stopped at eight enterprises over the weekend. Peddie, whose family operates an Ayrshire farm in Howick, described the Glynstages Holstein Farm as her favourite location: “It was inspiring to see how they are set up with their newer calf and heifer barn. They explained to us what they feed them, their milking routine, and even how their calf feeder works, which gave me ideas on how we could improve with our own herd.”
Keith Quinn also evaluated the tour from the perspective of someone implicated in his own family business, Île-Perrot’s Quinn Farm. The Ormstown 4-H member and club treasurer remarked that La Fromagerie du Presbytère “had a really nice retail store,” also noting that they produce all their own milk for the cheese which is washed by robots and aged in a church.
Similarly, Connor Bryson, Ormstown 4-H president, related his interest in WAR Genetics, a small family-run farm raising pure-bred speckle park cattle, to his own experience. “We used to have a speckle park and she was very close to us. We ended up keeping her and bred her to get a 75 per cent speckle park baby.” Additionally, Bryson observed that, “In Richmond, the farmland is very different from here; they have to adapt to their terrain. There is also a big diversity, varying from horse and beef to fertilizer and cheese.”
According to the program book, other stops on the tour included Ferme Deux L where two generations work together to raise lamb and Highland beef. The Cascades Sugar Shack, which lost 75 per cent of its tapped trees and all of its pipelines during the 1998 ice storm, has since worked its way back up to 3000 taps. The business is presently investing $50,000 to reduce fuel consumption by 40 per cent and is planning to reach 10,000 taps by 2026. Pork producer Ferme S. Roy is owned by brothers striving to be as self-sufficient as possible, with employees including butchers, cooks, and mechanics on site. Though the Sollio & Vivaco agriculture coopérative was created in 2018, 2023 is the first year of operation for its fertilizer operations center, mixing, bagging, and shipping from the heart of the territory.
The young people were billeted with families from the host club. Members of Howick 4-H stayed with Valley expat Erin Scoble, now a Richmond 4-H leader and teacher at the local elementary school.
Evenings were reserved for socializing. “After our long day of visiting agricultural sites, we had lots of fun at Richmond’s local curling club, where we enjoyed a meal and games of curling. It made me realize how rusty my curling skills are, but it sure was fun!” said Peddie. Quinn enjoyed the opportunity to learn to curl, as well as the square dancing and playing pool, remarking, “It’s a great learning experience for staying with a host family.” Bryson summed up the event with, “It’s a great experience for anyone to see new things.”