Thursday, July 11, 2024
NewsTop Story

MRC Pontiac consults on five-year agricultural development plan

Sophie Kuijper Dickson
Shawville Nov. 23, 2023
Pontiac farmers and people otherwise invested in the region’s agricultural industry crowded into the Little Red Wagon Winery on Thursday morning to share their vision of how to grow the industry and support the region’s current producers over the next five years.
MRC Pontiac invited interested residents to participate in a three-hour consultation session to launch the development of a new PDZA, a planning model created by the provincial ministry of agriculture to be used to guide development of agricultural zones in the province.
“We don’t want a book that just sits on a shelf and isn’t used, so that’s why you’re all here,” said Shanna Armstrong, the MRC’s economic development commissioner for agriculture. “We’re going to bring all of our ideas to make agriculture in the Pontiac beautiful over the next five years.”
Attendees were organized into discussion groups and invited to highlight current strengths of the region’s agricultural industry, and paint a picture of their ideal vision for the industry.
Sitting at one such table was Dave Ingalls of ELI-DA Jerseys, Scott Stephens of Cloverleaf Farms, Kristine Amyotte of Ferme Familial Beck, Mariane Roy of La Fée des Bois, and farmer wellness worker Gabriele Côté-Lamoureux from the organization Écoute Agricole.
Together, they decided the region’s assets included the abattoir in Shawville, the Shawville Fair, the region’s three farmers’ markets, the agricultural courses offered through Heritage College in Campbell’s Bay, and the presence and strength of local dairy, beef and grain farms.
The discussion around local strengths also included ideas about what more could be done and concerns about how new agricultural development initiatives might leave certain farmers behind.
“Often, in these plans, conventional agriculture is not included,” Amyotte shared with the group. “I’m very supportive of artisan agriculture, and I think there’s room to include conventional production.”
Ingalls, who owns a 55-jersey dairy farm, agreed.
“I have nothing against other productions but there’s a lot of emphasis on small-scale, vegetable, and organic. That’s important, but it can’t be a ‘one or the other’. We need balance. The dollars from the cash crops, the beef and the dairy industry, if those disappear, there’s no services here.”
Ingalls moved here from Montérégie because the land was more affordable.
He said since starting his farm, he has felt supported by programs coming out of the MRC, MAPAQ, the SADC, and the province’s agricultural Financière.
“I don’t know if I feel there’s anything missing for me,” he said, but added he fears being left behind as the MRC moves forward with a new plan.
“I don’t want the conventional agriculture that built this region to be left on the sidelines to favour other ones that may or may not have a great future here, I don’t know.”

For her part, Mariane Roy of Fée des Bois emphasized the need to develop and market agritourism in the region to better connect small-scale farmers directly to their customers.
Roy said her apothecary business draws many people directly to property in Greermount where she sells her products, but rarely does she meet people who happen upon her farm because they were passing through the area.
She would like to change this, and imagines doing so through developing a network of farms that could organize a farm hop, moving tourists from one farm to the next.
We really want to know what producers and stakeholders involved in agriculture see as priorities in terms of where they want to see agriculture go in the Pontiac,” Armstrong said. “There’s always aspects that are regulated provincially and federally but there’s a lot of play in there.”
The last time this MRC designed a PDZA was 10 years ago.
After what will be a lengthy consultation process, the final PDZA guide will be presented to the public in the winter of 2025. Snapshot of the local industry
Armstrong’s opening presentation at the consultation included statistics on MRC Pontiac’s farming industry.
According to the 2021 census, there are 239 farms in the MRC Pontiac.
Of these, 88 are beef, 47 produce hay, 31 produce cash crop grains, 19 are dairy, and the remaining 35 are a combination of mixed farms, market gardens, sheep and goat farms, greenhouse farms, poultry farms, and fruit and nut farms.
Clarendon is home to 96 farms, which make up 40 per cent of farms in the MRC Pontiac.
There are 325 farm operators, 240 of whom are men, and 215 of whom are over the age of 55.
Only 20 of these 325 farmers are under 30 years old.

FREE ACCESS FOR EQUITY SUBSCRIBERS

This article is available free to all subscribers to The Equity. If you are a subscriber, please enter your email address and password below.

SET UP YOUR ONLINE ACCOUNT

If you are a subscriber but have not yet set up your online account, please contact Liz Draper at liz@theequity.ca to do so.

HOW TO BECOME A SUBSCRIBER

To become a subscriber to The Equity, please use our Subscribe page or contact liz@theequity.ca