Vegetable growing got too complicated, they turn to grain

With his harvest plan for the season ready and he had already placed orders for seedlings and vegetable seedlings, gardener Alain Ferland decided to cancel everything at the last minute in February to focus solely on growing corn and soybeans.

Amélie Renee Coulomb, who is adding soybeans to her production this year, will not give up growing vegetables, but admits she has doubts about herself. Photo: Courtesy of Amélie Reni Coulomb

“I’m still passionate about it,” insists a farmer from Saint-Remy in Monteregie, “but the profile business [dans l’industrie maraîchère] does not make sense, and manufacturers should think about them. I kind of woke up. It’s forever. »

His spontaneous decision to give up his “boyish dream” was influenced by many factors, from the uncertainty about the prices received each year from large chains and wholesalers for his vegetables, and difficult profitability, especially in the context of rising production costs. Added to this is the growing paperwork and labor problems. “Getting to your destination is so difficult that in the end you don’t know what you will eat,” says the owner of Cultures Ferland, which typically produces 121 hectares of beets, celery, onions, cabbage and pumpkins, as well as 40 hectares of field crops for crop rotation. Instead, it will produce 162 hectares of corn and soybeans in 2022. “In arable crops, you make a phone call and you books half your harvest and your price,” he claims.

Mathieu Riendeau, a field crop and cabbage grower in the same city, will use only hay, wheat and soy this year. A choice partly justified by the difficulty of hiring the labor needed for horticulture. However, growing grain, which is more automated, removes this burden. “I didn’t want to rack my brains anymore. It has nothing to do with prices. I usually hire two local people and work with an agency, but it got more and more difficult. This year I will have no employees. I can do everything with my wife,” he explains.

Reflection that begins

With the ever-increasing administrative burdens associated with hiring foreign workers, meeting environmental standards and obtaining CanadaGAP health certification, Catherine Lessard, director of research and development for the Quebec Maraischer Producers Association, would not be surprised that such reflections begin for many. gardeners, especially medium-sized ones, who must meet the same requirements as large ones, but with fewer resources. “I don’t have any data and we may not see a difference this year because planting plans are already in place, but I’ve heard about it. Some people think about it in the long term,” she says.

Ile d’Orléans vegetable grower Amelie Reni Coulomb will integrate soybeans for the first time on her 72 hectares in 2022. “We are reducing market garden space a bit. Basically, I especially wanted to do a crop rotation by adding soybeans, but I confess I’m wondering. How long can I continue like this? […] Every year this gamble from A to Z,” she says.

Still reeling from a congested market that led to large surpluses and ridiculous prices for his cabbages last year, Alain Dulud, who grows more than 200 hectares of vegetables and 360 hectares of field crops in Saint-Remy and Saint-Constant, was considering stopping production. vegetables in 2022 to focus exclusively on corn and soybeans. However, he changed his mind for the sake of keeping his clients. “We always have a little hamster spinning around. i heard about it [que des confrères songent à se tourner vers les grandes cultures]. I think it will eventually be felt,” notes one who will start transplanting in the field in early May and crosses his fingers that the season will be better than last year.

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