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Local strawberries are ready, and delicious

As summer arrives, the variety of fresh produce that is readily available in the Valley grows every day. Right now, strawberries are ready to be picked. Growing a high-quality, locally grown crop is very important to our farmers. Both the Ferme Aux Mille Cailloux in Franklin and the Fraisière Lamoureux in Saint-Anicet focus on strawberry production, and the farmers agree that buying your fruits and veggies locally is the way to go this year.

Louis-Charles Faille of Mille Cailloux explains that the farm has been around for decades. “It started with my great grandfather; I am the fifth generation working at it. We started with producing apples. In the 1950s we had cows, but we stopped that. We’ve always had maple syrup.”

More recently, the farm has moved to producing summer fruits like berries, among other things: “Since the 2000s we started doing strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Then we started doing lamb. We’ve also started…transforming apples to apple juice and apple cider vinegar.” Faille claims that the rocky soil is what makes the strawberries so perfect. “There aren’t many in this region and also we have really rocky soil. That’s why we’re called the ‘Mille Cailloux.’ It’s the kind of ground that makes the fruit extra sweet.”

Fraisière Lamoureux has also been a Valley staple for decades. One of the farm’s owners, Diane Bouchard, describes how “It started 41 years ago. My in-laws bought land and prepared it to set up a strawberry patch. After that they expanded and started to do things like tomatoes, so we have a lot of focus on those two [crops].” One of the interesting things about this farm is that it uses greenhouses to grow some of its produce (like its famous tomatoes and cucumbers) to ensure that the fruits and vegetables remain consistent and aren’t subject to forces of nature beyond the farm’s control.

 

Strawberries from the Ferme Aux Mille Cailloux in Franklin at the Huntingdon County Farmers’ Market. PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

This year, spring frost hit a lot of local farms harder than it has in the past. Faille mentions that “Our apples and blueberries have been really affected by the recent frost. We’re still staying open though.” Luckily, the strawberries seem to be fine, and the farm was ready to open the “U-pick” for the weekend of June 12. Bouchard says that they were lucky, though she did see how the frost affected customers: “At this point we’re irrigated so we sprayed our strawberries and they weren’t affected at all. Some clients were affected, so they had to come back and buy more tomato plants and cucumber plants.”

Weathering the pandemic was, of course, a struggle for both farms. Bouchard explains that they managed, and sales were very good, but they did have to follow strict COVID-19 procedures. Mille Cailloux was hit a bit more dramatically because of the loss of temporary workers. “Last year we had a lot of trouble because we didn’t have migrant workers coming in June. We put out a call to Quebecers but that was really difficult. We hired a lot of people, but people became discouraged easily because picking strawberries is really hard work,” explains Faille. One thing that Bouchard and Faille agree upon is that COVID-19 did wonders to inspire people to shift to buying more locally.

Bouchard says that the pandemic created more regulars at their farm. “Last year I noticed people who I rarely saw, coming all the time to get their fruits and vegetables.” She reiterates that shopping locally “lets us thrive and develop our village! The importance of buying local is that you get to keep having local vendors. If you’re always at Costco, you lose that.” Faille emphasizes that “If we want to have Quebec agriculture, we need to shop locally. Because if we are always focused on globalization, the United States will always have cheaper products with their giant farms.”

Both farmers are passionate about what they do and even more passionate about keeping Quebec farming alive and well. They are devoted to continuing to grow local high-quality produce in hopes that people will reach out and support their local businesses. This will ensure that businesses like Ferme Aux Mille Cailloux and Fraisière Lamoureux will be around for decades more.

 

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