Friday, July 12, 2024

Bristol livestock farm incubator seeking new applicants

by Sophie Kuijper Dickson
Jan. 15, 2023
A new farm incubator project in Bristol is offering people looking to get into livestock farming an opportunity to do so without having to fork up the money to buy land.
A piece of land at the corner of Knox Road and the Eighth Line in Bristol was purchased last year by the Centre de recherche et de développement technologique agricole de l’Outaouais (CREDÉTAO), an organization that works to develop agriculture in the Outaouais region.
Fencing for rotational grazing and irrigation were installed last summer.
Now the organization is hoping to find two people interested in trying their hand at livestock farming to do so on this piece of land, beginning this spring.
“We’ll have full infrastructure in place, and the new farmers need to just bring their animals”, said Ana McBride, the program manager for the livestock incubator project.
“We are looking for someone either that’s starting their farm, are new in farming, or are looking to diversify.”
McBride explained that currently about 50 acres of the pasture is set up for finishing two herds of beef cattle, with another five acres available for other animal production.
The organization also hopes to open another 30 or so acres on the property for another kind of livestock production in the back field, across the Quyon River, but that will take some time to develop.
The initiative is modeled off an organic market gardening incubator farm that has been running in L’Ange-Gardien, Que. near Buckingham, for over a decade, and has been acclaimed as one of the most successful farm start-up programs in the province, according to McBride.
Making land more accessible
Pontiac’s new livestock incubator is one of three that were launched across the MRCs in the Outaouais in the fall of 2023.
In MRC de la Vallée-de-la-Gatineau, the incubator is focused on small fruit production, while the project in MRC Papineau is focused on small forestry agriculture including sugar bush production and intercropping, the practice of growing fields of crops between rows of trees.
“The whole project across all of the incubators is to help with access to land, which we know is kind of difficult,” McBride said.
“It’s also to help farmers get started and focus on the business aspect of their farm and then see how viable it is without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on acquiring land, acquiring infrastructure,” she explained.
The only cost for use of the land in Bristol will be a yearly rental fee, which McBride figures will be about $3,000.
So far, she said, the project has received some interest from already-established farmers interested in renting pasture, but that this is not quite the demographic CREDÉTAO is hoping to attract.
“We want to help people get started,” McBride said. “We’re really looking to help out people that don’t have access to family land.”
Tailored to the Pontiac
The new farm incubator in Bristol is the first in the province to focus on livestock.
McBride said a livestock farming incubator was chosen for the MRC Pontiac because the region has a long history of successful beef and dairy farmers.
“It’s been an important economic driver in the MRC for a long time, and the Pontiac would offer a supportive community for a new livestock farmer to join,” McBride said.
While many of the incubators in Quebec are focused on market gardening, McBride said livestock farming is one of the most expensive types of farming one can take on if there is not already a livestock business in the family.
The decision to set up a livestock incubator was based on research conducted by CREDÉTAO in 2019, and also based on feedback from a local steering committee that was set up at the MRC to consult on this project .
Shanna Armstrong, the MRC’s economic development commissioner for agriculture, was one of the people on this committee.
She said she has seen farmers who have come out of the incubator in L’Ange Gardien start businesses in the Pontiac region, so she knows this model has been successful, and she believes it can work here.
“We have really good land for animal production, and the cost of land here is lower than much of the rest of the Outaouais,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong noted that part of the selection process will include submitting a business plan so the applicant can indicate they are aware getting into livestock farming will be a longer-term projec and will not turn an immediate profit.
The goal, she added, is for “new farmers starting out [in the Pontiac], getting experience and building up their business, and then they also build up some equity with that and can hopefully look for farms within the Pontiac.”

The property is split down the middle by the Quyon River. About 50 acres of pasture are currently available to host two farmers’. The pasture is set up with fencing for rotational grazing and irrigation. The organization hopes to make another 30 acres available across the river in coming years.


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