L’ARTERRE is an agricultural networking organization that pairs aspiring farmers with landowners across the province. The Haut-Saint-Laurent is one of five MRCs in the Montérégie region to have a formal association with the organization, which offers a starting point for new farmers.
“The impact of L’ARTERRE is not immediately evident, but the work that we do with certain individuals helps to promote the program,” says Maude St-Jean, the new networking agent for the area. She admits there is work to be done for the program’s potential to become more widely recognized in the area as a valuable resource, and that it’s not just for young farmers looking for land. The organization offers support to producers who are looking to transfer their land, but also to landowners who have smaller properties or stands of land that they may be interested in seeing used.
St-Jean says she sees great potential to expand maple syrup production in the region, for example, or even mushroom growing. “The types of production are varied,” she explains. “Wood lots, fields, buildings – it can be all types of agriculture.”
She adds that “L’ARTERRE is not just for mini-projects,” addressing a misconception that larger producers, such as cash croppers or dairy farmers, will not benefit from its services.
“It does not have to be up to you to ‘find the right person’,” she explains. One of the program’s biggest assets is the networking potential it offers producers, enabling them to communicate with people in other regions who are prepared to move. “There is also a strong movement of people from urban areas who are interested in agriculture, but whose personal networks do not tap into rural regions.”
There are no criteria in terms of age for those looking to start a project. L’ARTERRE can also help startup businesses expand within the first five years of production.
Part of a larger picture
The main issue being tackled by L’ARTERRE involves the barriers to starting in agriculture imposed by affordability of and access to land, but St-Jean says the reality on the ground is even more complex. “We are witnesses to the different challenges that aspiring farmers will face,” she says, noting how work-life balance, housing, child
e, and access to services, among other significant social issues, are also at play when it comes to pairing landowners with potential buyers or renters.
In this context, L’ARTERRE plays an even larger role in ensuring the stability of startup farms and the longevity of projects by nurturing solid pairings, where both the producer or landowner and the aspiring farmer are happy and supported.