By Michael Boriero
Pâturages du Lac Brome is different from other farms in the Eastern Townships, focusing on quality over quantity, and putting an emphasis on regenerative and sustainable development.
Émilie Tremblay recently founded the farm with the goal of keeping all of her animals — 14 head of cattle, over 30 sheep, a lama, ducks and chickens — always outside on pasture. They eat only grass, and at the same time, they work the land for Tremblay.
“The regenerative aspect focuses on high intensity rotation, so we move the animals way more often than a regular rotational agriculture system, so they only eat a little bit of the plant and they disturb the soil and they trample all of the unwanted weeds,” said Tremblay.
While raising animals on grain in large indoor facilities is an acceptable and common practice, she explained that her method provides a friendlier environment for animals. They are outside, constantly foraging, she continued, with access to water and shade.
Tremblay wanted a way into the agriculture and food industry. She spoke to The Record last week detailing how she received a lease through an organization called L’ARTERRE, which helps landowners and farmers connect with other farmers who want more land.
It was a golden opportunity for Tremblay, and her project was eventually picked up by two landowners in Bolton-Ouest. She was also able to avoid significant start-up costs because, as she described in a phone interview, the animals do most of the work.
“It’s not us, it’s not the farmer who works the land, it’s the animal who works the land, I only move fences, I don’t till, I don’t have to sow seeds. I don’t work the lands and I don’t even work animals if we want to push it that far, it’s the animals that do all the work,” she said.
Tremblay studied sustainable development, and according to the innovative farmer, there are three pillars: economic, environmental, and social. She wanted to strike all three of them on her farm. However, she noted that it is not easy for everyone to adopt this mindset.
Many farmers are living with heavy debt, whether it’s from purchasing hundreds of acres, putting a down payment on a farm, or buying expensive machinery. It can take a lot of sacrifices to make the shift, but it has been done, Tremblay added.
“I don’t even own a tractor, I don’t own anything, in fact, I have a little bit of debt for regular stuff, but I didn’t have to buy a big farm, I didn’t have to buy a tractor, like a $300,000 tractor, so for a person who wants to make a switch, they would have to sell all that stuff,” she said.
Tremblay is also not in this for the money. She is not going to make millions of dollars on her farm. All she wants is to create a comfortable life for her family, and establish a healthy and economically viable working environment for her employees.
She wants to show people that this type of farm is completely accessible, and attainable. Tremblay hopes to encourage more aspiring farmers to consider regenerative techniques because it also changes the way people produce and consume meat.
“My favourite statistic, and it’s also the worst and the scariest, is 95 per cent of beef producers, they need a second job or like they have to rely on their spouse to put the bread on the table,” said Tremblay, adding that meat packers take a large chunk of money out of farmers’ hands.
Beef producers are also dependent on market prices, so they are unable to choose the price of their product. But Tremblay sells directly from her farm. It also has a major impact on the environment. Regenerative agriculture sequesters carbon in the land, she said.
There is a lot of negativity towards beef production over the past decade, Tremblay continued, due to the methane emitted from feeding lots. However, her project involves less pollution, and, she said, when the animals are grazing, it is like kickstarting the regrowth of the plants.
“They use the energy from the sun and the carbon in the air, which we are trying to decrease, and they put it in the soil and then we transform that growth into animals that are delicious to eat, so everybody wins in this situation,” said Tremblay. She calls them solar harvesters.