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Emerging market gardeners : portrait of a winning start

Updated: Jan 18


Each year, the Emerging Farmer Award is presented to a young entrepreneur or a group of agricultural entrepreneurs in animal or crop production. The prize also includes a $7,500 scholarship.


Last November, MAPAQ announced the winners of the 2022 edition of the Young Farmers Award. What a nice surprise it was for the Orisha team to learn that the recipients were the Agricola Farm team!




Emerging Farmers Award Winners 2022 market garderner greenhouse
Agricola Farm photographed by © Éric Labonté, MAPAQ

Agricola Farm is a worker's cooperative located in the Outaouais region. On 160 acres of land, they cultivate about 11 acres: 3 acres for asparagus, 1/2 acre dedicated to cut flowers and about 7 acres of field and tunnels in a semi-mechanized system with reduced tillage.







We started the business with 4 founding members. Our team has since grown to include 4 full-time employees, as well as seasonal asparagus workers. Our goal is to create a meaningful and fulfilling work environment for our entire team. - Natalie Childs



greenhouse production, food security, organic market gardener, young farmers
Photo by © Éric Labonté, MAPAQ

In addition to producing approximately 275 organic baskets, the Agricola team produces for a farmers' market and their farm stand.


This young team of market gardeners also contributes to the food security of their community members, regardless of their income.


With community food security as a priority in their mission, they have launched a solidarity basket program.










In addition to donating all of our surplus food to our local food bank, we offer our weekly vegetable baskets to lower income members of our community at a reduced cost. In 2022, 50 families in our community had access to these baskets at a reduced price. - Natalie Childs


The cooperative's mission is clear: to build an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable agricultural enterprise. One of their focuses is to build climate resilience into every part of their farming operations. In fact, one of their biggest challenges to date is continuing to adapt to the changing climate.



Climate has always been a challenge for farmers, but we are seeing an increase in major weather events as well as unpredictable weather patterns, especially in the spring and fall. That's part of the reason we've been building more greenhouses and grow tunnels: they give us more flexibility and control in a changing climate. - Natalie Childs


Currently expanding, they are adding 3 new 100' x 30' greenhouses to their 2 existing greenhouses. That's 15,000' more production space that they will continue to grow with the help of Orisha. With these new greenhouses, they plan to diversify their products with beans and ginger in the summer and increase the production of fresh produce such as carrots, beets, green onions and herbs in the spring and fall.



Do you want to produce as much in a greenhouse as Agricola Farm? Contact our team to make your project possible!




greenhouse production, food security, organic market gardener, young farmers
Photo by © Éric Labonté, MAPAQ

The Emerging Farmer Award was presented to Natalie Childs, Caleb Langille, Hannah Hunter and Heather Syposz at the end of their 4th season. These young market gardeners grow a variety of organic vegetables and plants, from asparagus to cut flowers.


Having 4 co-owners and vegetable friends involved from the beginning has allowed them to grow quite quickly. Their success is based on their common passion for agriculture and environmental protection.


To achieve their goals, this super team with diverse skills relies on the complementary strengths of each.







Each of us is responsible for certain management roles, both in production and in the administration of the company. This allows us to focus more on our specific responsibilities. - Natalie Childs


For the Agricola team, receiving the 2022 Emerging Farmers Award is a touching honour that echoes all their efforts over the past few seasons.



It is a welcome recognition of the work done so far. It is an encouragement to continue to develop our goals in the future and to keep pushing our food security message. It's also an acknowledgement of the support of the many communities around us - our great team, our neighbors and customers in the Petite Nation in the Outaouais, the organic vegetable farming community here in Quebec and the broader co-op movement! - Natalie Childs



greenhouse production, food security, organic market gardener, young farmers
Photo by © Éric Labonté, MAPAQ

The advice they would give to anyone embarking on their greenhouse project would be to get away from the idea that you have to reinvent the wheel or do everything yourself.


They themselves followed this principle and promised themselves not to be afraid to ask for help.




Asking for advice or help allows us to draw on the expertise of others and make them part of our project. This is what helps us through the tough times. - Natalie Childs


Do you want to rely on reliable vegetable expertise like the 4 friends do? Our team is ready at any time to answer your questions for free!



 

Congratulations again to the entire Agricola team for this award! Food safety starts with passionate people like you.


For more articles like this, read Jean-Michel's story and how he managed to simplify his daily greenhouse management. Do you have an accomplishment, a personal pride or a great story to share? Don't hesitate to share it with us in comments!


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