Our up-and-coming farmers were back in action since May 5 at Montreal’s public markets. Who are they? What do they offer? Why should you discover them? We tell you all about it!
Since 2021, from May to October, the Jean-Talon, Atwater and Maisonneuve markets have welcomed dozens of young Quebec farmers thanks to the Kiosques de la Relève. This project provides small, often start-up, agricultural businesses with turnkey facilities one day a week to showcase their products. It’s a unique initiative, and very popular with young farmers and farmers’ market customers alike!
As Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet, General Manager of the Marchés publics de Montréal, explains, “The Kiosques de la Relève meet the specific needs of the new generation of farmers, who don’t yet have the volume of production or the manpower to set up shop with us seven days a week, while continuing to work in the field. With this new simplified rental formula, we’re supporting a whole cohort of new farms to facilitate the development of their production, stimulate local agriculture in Quebec, and market without intermediaries in Montreal.”
An innovative solution to the challenges facing farmers in Quebec
As we read in the media, we know that young people who want to take over their family’s agricultural mission, or who are passionate about farming, face major challenges. Speculation in arable land is rampant, with its value jumping 248% over the past 10 years, according to data compiled by Farm Credit Canada.
“I rent the family land I farm in Mirabel, because I wouldn’t be able to buy it right now. The prices are exorbitant,” confirms Léandre Raymond Desjardins, a former chef who founded his market garden farm Les jardins de la fourchette in 2021. An early participant in the Kiosques de la Relève at the Jean-Talon market, he greatly appreciates this initiative, which enables him to quietly develop his commercial activities, centered around direct sales, subscriptions to weekly market garden baskets and deliveries to restaurants.
But the price of land is not the only challenge faced by the new farmers. Martin Caron, general president of the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), points out that “labor problems, price inflation (fuel, inputs, equipment, etc.) and the need to adapt to new technologies all have an impact on the debt levels of Quebec farmers. As a result, today, 1 dollar of revenue is equivalent to 8 dollars of investment, as opposed to 2 dollars of investment before. It’s understandable that many of them are running out of steam.
Caron also stresses the importance of farm succession, at a time when 40% of agricultural entrepreneurs have no plans for one, and are 54 years old on average. “It’s a cause for concern, so we have to do our best to encourage young people who choose this profession. That’s what we do at the UPA by contributing to the Kiosques la relève, which we see as magnificent showcases for young farmers, who can test their products and forge bonds of trust with consumers.”
A dynamic and diversified new generation
Kiosques de la Relève are a concrete solution to the marketing challenges faced by the new generation of farmers. Spearheaded by the Marchés publics de Montréal, the project was immediately supported by the Ville de Montréal, MAPAQ and, of course, the UPA, which pays 50% of the rental costs for the kiosks.
This generous support has made it possible for 26 up-and-coming agricultural enterprises to take part in 2022 alone: organic market gardeners, urban farmers, garlic, herb and edible flower producers, breeders, winemakers, pickers… in short, something for everyone.
The 2023 season will be just as exciting, with two dedicated kiosks at Marché Jean-Talon, two more at Marché Atwater and one at Marché Maisonneuve. Since the beginning of May, young producers of microfoams, mushrooms and edible plants, as well as breeders of grass-fed ducks and Highland beef, have already been inviting visitors. And that’s just for starters, as the Kiosques de la relève program stretches right through to October!
Several of the farms on this list are innovators. In addition to selling their produce, they have begun to set up a subscription drop-off point for pre-ordered market garden baskets. It’s a happy hybrid formula, since customers who pick up their pre-orders can also top up their purchases with daily arrivals.
So, once again, we can look forward to precious moments of discovery, indulgence and exchange at the Kiosques de la Relève. Léandre Raymond Desjardins, who will be arriving in June with his forty or so non-mechanized organic vegetables, is looking forward to the experience once again: “I’m happy to take time off every week to come and man the kiosk,” he says. Direct contact with customers is invaluable. They’re curious, open-minded people, interested in our products and our history. They come to us for inspiration, and they inspire us just as much in return. It’s a win-win situation!
Text by Sophie Ginoux