It's crazy when you think about it. A very small idea of a young man barely 20 years old who just wanted to create a summer job. This young man, he got screwed! His project would not be just a simple little project, but would quickly evolve into a life project… This story, my story, do you know it?
In 2007, I was studying computer science at Cégep. As I liked to say, for me, computing was a hobby. I didn't want to do my job later, but it was in this field that I studied while waiting to find what I wanted to do. It was in 2007 that my father bought the land in Pointe-Fortune in order to plan his retirement. He wanted to plant sea buckthorn to occupy his old age (phew he won't like my expression!). At that time, I had one wish: To find myself a summer job on the farm in order to stop working in downtown Montreal.
By dint of searching and reading, I discovered beekeeping. Curious, I started reading about it. I discovered there a complex world which seemed to me very beautiful. A world worth discovering. The little spark had just arrived. I no longer wanted to make it just a summer job, but a job for life! While looking for training, I found several small training courses of a few days, but nothing up to my expectations. I wasn't going to embark on a project like that without really good training. Finally, I found a course at the Cégep d'Alma which was to start at the end of January 2008 and which lasted 1 year. There were not enough students, so the course was going to be delayed with a course start date to be determined (1 month, 6 months, 1 year, no one knew). I was really disappointed, but I was going to be patient. Finally, 2 days before the deadline to cancel our classes at Cégep, the phone rings: Beekeeping class starts February 18, next Monday! I hasten to cancel my classes at Cégep to prepare to study at Cégep d'Alma. My mother and I are leaving for Alma. A small stay of 2 days awaited us in order to find where I was going to live. Leaving for 1 year is good, but you have to live somewhere! We find a place fairly quickly.
Classes begin. We are barely 17 or 18 students. In one month, there are only about ten of us left and only 5 or 6 of us will be graduating. Many were disillusioned with what beekeeping was; Not an easy job. I still hadn't seen a bee and I still didn't know if I was allergic to these little creatures, but I knew that's what I wanted to do more than ever.
Summer 2008, first contact with bees: I did an internship with a beekeeper. Producer of bulk honey, queens and hives (baby hives that are sold to other beekeepers), this internship allowed me to learn about everything in beekeeping. Theory is good, but practice is even better! At the end of the summer, I was really hooked.
Summer 2011, start of public markets. From the start, Ferme Les Petites Écores was present in 3 markets in the region: Rigaud, Saint-Lazare and Île-Perrot. Over the years, we have done several other markets: Pointe-des-cascades, Vaudreuil-Dorion, Ville Saint-Laurent, Concordia and McGill. It has always been very important to have direct contact with you dear customers. It is for this reason that we have long favored public contracts. Already at that time, I had created several honey-based products: Cinnamon Honey, chocolate honey and honey caramel.
Then, 2013 arrives, the year of BIG changes. It was in 2013 that my parents joined the business with the sea buckthorn plantation. That year, we started building the honey house. But that's not the only major change that happened in 2013. I met Hélène, my wife, who was going to join the adventure, because she too had a very specific life project. We will come back to this later.
In 2014, nearly 40% of mortality… We had to buy hives to make up for our losses. It was heavy losses and it was really sad. Despite everything, I was so happy: we had a new honey house, had managed to increase our number of hives to 212 during the summer, my sweetheart by my side and, for the first time, we were offering our pollination services in the blueberry fields in Lac-Saint-Jean.
2015 marks the year Hélène started Jardins Les Petites Écores. A nice addition to the farm! Not easy to work a land where rocks are predominant. Hélène clears the gardens then prepares the “beds” on which she will grow her vegetables. She is starting to produce vegetables that will soon be certified organic. She also starts the organic vegetable baskets which are a success! I was really happy for her.
I contact a first beekeeper: All sold… I contact a friend who has a lot of hives. I let him know my situation. He told me to call him back the next day. When I call him back, he tells me what he has to offer me: “What would you say if I lent you 100 beehives. You give me 50 next year and 50 in two years. No charges." I didn't understand what had just happened. For me, it was much more than a “little” 100 hives: It was not going bankrupt and continuing to do what I loved. And yes, we came really close to not continuing. I will be eternally grateful to him.
When discussing the mortalities with this producer, he submits a hypothesis on the reason for the mortalities (which I still did not know). Summer 2016, I do tests. All my hives have “tags”. In this way, we ensure an irreproachable follow-up and we succeed in confirming the source of the problem. By checking with the producer who supplied our queens, we were able to confirm that the problem was indeed the queens that came from his apiary. We always received our queens the 3rd week of June and these queens had problems. Not only with us, but with other beekeeping producers as well. This discovery allowed me to get back on my feet. Finally the light at the end of the tunnel. And that's the case. The springs of 2017, 2018 and 2019 went well! I was starting to feel better again.
I want to make a special mention to the entire VS Development (DEV) team. My DEV, I love it. They have helped me since the creation of my company and, still today, they are present. Highly qualified and passionate people who do extremely professional and valuable work for the economic and social development of Vaudreuil-Soulanges.
If you are an entrepreneur, start-up or in business, in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region and you have questions, go see them. They are the best, they are there for you.
What does the future hold for us? We can't say, but we can guarantee you that we have several projects in the pipeline. Agriculture is not easy, we are at the mercy of nature, but oh how much we love what we do! And it's partly thanks to you, dear customers, friends and family who have been supporting us for so long. You give us the strength to always innovate more in order to offer you more.
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