Recently the government announced that summer camps will be allowed to open this year. Ormstown’s La Ferme d’André will be opening for the first time under new owners.
Last year, the farm was sold to Mylène Faucher, her partner, and their sons. Faucher explains their decision to purchase it: “My partner has always been in agriculture and my sons studied at MacDonald College in agriculture. It’s a full-time job for the family. Anything that’s farming, animals, agriculture, it’s a passion for them.” Faucher herself recently retired from a career in human resources. Along with loving animals, she says “I love kids too and anything related to managing and organizing. Basically, anything that’s for the well-being of others, it’s always been a priority.” She believes her skills from her career in HR will be really useful in the running of La Ferme d’André. “I did a lot of coaching to help people discover their interests and strengths while encouraging them and helping them build confidence. These are skills that are transferable to a summer camp and managing the coordinators, monitors, and getting kids interested.”
Faucher reiterates that the vast amount of work André Giguère has put into this camp over nearly five decades will not be forgotten. She herself was inspired by the place when she visited in elementary school: “I knew La Ferme d’André when I was young … I went with school for a day and I still remember the barn theatre and how it looked huge. When I came back, all these memories came back.”
Giguère has been a well-known and important figure in the community for a long time. Faucher mentions, “What’s really important for us is to follow the work that Mr. Giguère has been doing since 1969. He’s a coach and a mentor for us, and what’s amazing is that he still lives on the property.”
Of course, taking over a business in the middle of a global pandemic is not the most traditional way of doing things. Faucher addresses this: “We bought La Ferme d’André last year in the middle of the pandemic without knowing what was going to happen. We became the owners on May 1, and there was an NPO that had been [running] the camp for the past seven years for Mr. Giguère.” When Faucher and her family purchased it, the government hadn’t said if camps were going to be allowed to open. The NPO decided not to continue running the camp, “… which I understand very well, because there is so much work to do to prepare and all the planning,” says Faucher.
Luckily, she and her family were able to use the year off to their advantage. “We were able to familiarize ourselves with the location and refresh the installations. I was still working full time, so being able to better understand how the summer camp works was great. We learned about the Association des Camps Du Quebec; we had weekly virtual calls. We had a really extraordinary team with us.” She later emphasizes that the Association des Camps Du Québec was vital in their development and they are extremely grateful.
Giving kids the opportunity to attend camps like this is of the utmost importance to Faucher. “Having children get out of their comfort zones, being in nature, appreciating what nature brings us all helps them get in touch with their creativity … it’s a learning environment that is not stressful, they discover and appreciate just being outdoors,” she explains. “In the past year with the pandemic kids had to stay home, so to return to the farm with animals, to rediscover liberties that we didn’t have is important both for mental and physical health. This is an opportunity to make new friends who come from all over!”
She reiterates that kids get to do all of this while “being in a safe space, with monitors. We live on the site, so we’re here 24 hours a day. We’re going to continue building a formula that works for the kids and hope to be around for many more years.”
“Financially the question has been raised as to whether or not we’d open if the government allowed us to. But to me it was clear that we had to open, even if it meant possible losses. It’s better to open so that people don’t forget about la Ferme d’André.”
The camp will be open as of June 27 this year and it is looking like it will be a successful season. “The reaction from parents has been really positive. We’re overwhelmed with people so we’re very happy about that. Our preparations are going really well.” It is their hope that by the fall they will also be able to host open houses.