Farmers create a coop to improve their lot

Farmers create a coop to improve their lot

UPGRADE DAY

Twenty Lanaudière farmers have decided to take the bull by the horns in order to market their products more easily. Their initiative also allows them to devote more time to their farms.

The Coop des Îles in Saint-Ignace-de-Loyola, officially registered on January 12, has been open since January 1. June.

Founded by six farmers, it now has 22, mostly small-scale farm owners. They sell their products on the shelves of an old fruit store they bought in the spring.

“We don't have to go to lots of farmers' markets to successfully sell our volumes, we come and bring them here,” explained Linda Lafontaine, president of the cooperative. Mrs. Lafontaine raises lambs at La Visitation-de-l'Île-Dupas, near Berthierville, and has a sugar bush in Saint-Damien, a few dozen kilometers further north.

“The time we take to sell less at farmers' markets, we can put it back on our farm to work and improve our lot,” added Ms. Lafontaine, whom we met at the Coop des Îles.

< p>Besides selling at farmers' markets, which takes time and energy, access to grocery chains is not given to everyone, especially small producers.

“I am not able to hit the shelves of major grocery stores because I don't have enough volume,” said Lafontaine, who produces 100 to 150 lambs a year. And to go to the local, I wouldn't be able to do it, with all the standards in place.”

Collaborations

Roxane Saint-Martin, fourth-generation owner of a small farm specializing in emerging berries, is one of the six founders. In particular, she supplies her haskaps and ground cherries to the coop, where cooks cook them. They recently concocted pies and jam with her ground cherries.

“We also have an artisan butcher who made a haskap sausage, that creates a lot of collaborations, rejoices Ms. Saint-Martin. I couldn't afford an employee on my own, there we pool our efforts and we can be on our own farm.”

For her part, Isabelle Pelland, owner of a small farm where she raises cows and calves, is the only one of the 22 members of the group to work full time at the coop, as a coordinator.

“If you buy beef here and beef at the grocery store, you're going to have a big difference in taste, Ms. Pelland told us. And rarely will customers look at or criticize the prices. Instead, they'll wonder where it comes from and if it's fresh.”

Bison, lamb, syrup, fruits, vegetables, processed products, ready-to-eat are therefore found on the shelves of this cooperative.

It will still be open until December 23, when it will close for the winter, but “may be open year-round in the following years, depending on demand », told us Linda Lafontaine.