Farming is one of the driving forces in the region; however, access to land can make it especially difficult for young farmers starting out.
L’ARTERRE is an agricultural networking organization that works to solve such dilemmas, by pairing aspiring farmers with landowners across the province. The MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent recently became the fifth MRC in the Montérégie region to formally associate with L’ARTERRE to ensure its services are available locally. The Haut-Saint-Laurent joined the Jardins-de-Napierville, Maskoutains, Pierre-de-Saurel, and Haute-Yamaska MRCs in signing a sectorial agreement with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAMH) to develop their respective agricultural sectors through L’ARTERRE’s land-matching program.
The agreement represents an investment of over $1.5 million across the Montérégie for resources that will help future generations of farmers access available land. Three networking agents with L’ARTERRE will be able to help new farmers “during the start-up phase or in the takeover of a business,” while working to “bridge the gap with the right partners for the purchase” and to allow for “post-matching follow-up,” according to a press release.
Through L’ARTERRE’s services, aspiring farmers can purchase land from larger, already established farms. The organization was born in 2016 from the merger of Banque de terres, which originated in Brome-Missisquoi in 2012, and Banque de fermes, which was created by the Centre d’innovation social en agriculture. It now operates at the provincial level through the Centre de référence en agriculture et agroalimentaire du Québec (CRAAQ), which develops and manages web-based tools and the central database of available land.
The service works to enhance the livelihood of both experienced and new farmers while “providing the necessary support and training to the networking agents and ensuring the harmonization and quality of services for all.” At a local level, L’ARTERRE works through its partner MRCs.
One of the networking agents responsible for the Haut-Saint-Laurent and Jardin-de-Napierville MRCs is Caroline Bérubé. She says, “It’s important to develop L’ARTERRE’s services here, because these are areas that are a bit more forgotten.” She has seen firsthand the demand for a support system like this: “There has been a lot of demand in the region, especially by aspiring farmers to establish themselves. We have a waitlist to call back. There will be a lot happening in this region in the next few years; lots of opportunities!” she exclaims.
Huntingdon MNA Claire IsaBelle echoes these sentiments. “Supporting the next generation of farmers, aspiring farmers, by pairing them with our existing businesses and experienced farmers, can only be beneficial for everyone and will meet real needs.” L’ARTERRE will help to “maintain the agricultural dynamism of our region while increasing the accessibility of land for the next generation of farmers. We encourage our future farmers, and we will follow their pairings with enthusiasm,” says IsaBelle.
The effects of this new development could have a positive impact on the local economy. “It’ll help create new businesses that will contribute to the local economy by selling products to people in the region,” says Bérubé. These projects could expand to attract further audiences and even “evolve into agritourism, which could bring traffic to the area – people who live in the city who will come to the region to discover the products from the Haut-Saint-Laurent.”
Individuals interested in L’ARTERRE’s services can contact the organization directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Bérubé will work with those interested to find the right match. For landowners looking to sell or transfer land, the process is relatively straightforward. For aspiring farmers, there is a bit more of a process and stricter criteria. They are expected to have a business plan relating to a project that is commercially viable. When it comes to the match itself, Bérubé says that “It’s important to note the human aspect. We must also match personalities so that partnerships work, and it continues to go well.” Long-term success is the goal.
At the end of the day, Bérubé says this project will “create new projects and diversity in types of projects.” It will help a new generation of farmers have a chance, while also continuing to diversify what the Valley has to offer.