The Gleaner
Agriculture

Micro-farm is on a mission toward sustainability

Rachel Patenaude

When Sylvie Racette started Micro Ferme Retour aux Sources, she wanted to create a self-sustaining agricultural business – a place for people to learn about sustainability and how to practice it at home, take workshops, and learn new skills. Now, five years later, the farm is growing, and heading in a direction Racette has always dreamed of.

Racette moved to the region with her partner almost a decade ago, when they bought an old farm on the back roads of Saint-Anicet. She was already very comfortable on a farm, as she grew up visiting her grandparents on theirs. The farming project was started by the pair to get themselves on the path to self-sustainability. It began with a few goats and plants, and Racette taught various sustainability workshops. She taught knitting, soapmaking, breadmaking, and canning, and she even brought in guests to teach other skills that were less familiar to her.

Eventually Racette decided she also wanted to raise some animals for fibre. “I wanted animals that produced wool. I’ve always loved fibre arts – my mom had a wool shop growing up,” she mentions. So, she got a couple of Finnish Landrace sheep (Finnsheep) and continued with the workshops.

In the meantime, Racette was also teaching herself how to process and dye wool. “It occurred to me that if this is what we loved, taking care of animals, working with fibres and wool, why don’t we really dive headfirst into it?” she says. The pair invested in some more sheep, specifically Bluefaced Leicesters, Rambouillets, and more Finnsheep. Racette notes that she picked these breeds specifically because they produce the best wool for knitting, saying, “All sheep’s wool is good, but they’re different, and not all wool is good for all types of projects and products.” They also planted a large flower garden to provide dye ingredients for the wool, as the goal was to have all aspects of yarn production happen on the farm.

 

The old barn that was torn down, and the new post-and-beam barn being built in its place. PHOTOS Sylvie Racette

 

With these big plans in motion, it became clear that they would need a new, bigger barn. They needed space to house the animals during the winter, as well as to transform the wool, host workshops, and have a small shop to sell their products. “We also knew that we didn’t want a barn like the ones that are more commonly built these days; we wanted one that would compliment the rest of the property and the house, which is 175 years old,” says Racette. “That’s why we’re building a post-and-beam barn.”

As sustainability is of utmost importance to Racette, she made sure to source all materials for the new barn from the Haut-Saint-Laurent. She was able to find everything needed to erect the barn from ten different suppliers in the area. “We’re most proud of the fact that all the materials for the barn are from local businesses and producers, right down to the screws,” she says. They also plan on repurposing the wood from the old barn, which was torn down, to panel and decorate the inside the shop – reusing as much as the old materials as possible.

While the construction has made the other farm activities more difficult, Racette is enjoying the process. The goal is to bring the animals in at some point in November, and then have the other spaces ready to open in the new year when workshops will start up again. There’s still some time before wool transformation will fully begin, but she’s excited to get there.

Racette hopes to be able to continue working with and supporting the community as the farm grows. “When you buy from me, you’re also supporting my hay supplier from Godmanchester, my grain provider from Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague, and all the other locals I source from,” she says. For Racette, sustainability isn’t just important for the planet, but also for the community.

Leave a comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.