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How a Montreal boy got the farming bug

Actu - Francis Madore : La piqûre de l'agriculture

There was nothing in Francis Madore's urban Montreal childhood to indicate that he would one day grow up to cultivate the land. 

"In my twenties, I had trouble settling on a career," says Francis, now in his forties. "I just kept looking, and wandering. I did all kinds of odd jobs, including tree planting out West." In 1989, as a student at Cégep Saint-Laurent, he participated in SENS : Sensibilisation aux Échanges Nord-Sud. This North-South exchange program took him to Bolivia, where he visited cooperation projects with focuses as diverse as rural revitalization, women, access to drinking water, community radio, and reforestation, specifically nurseries. He fell in love with international cooperation. "For me, it was like a spark had been lit. I said to myself, this is what I want to do, international cooperation – help people!"

Not quite knowing where to start, he consulted other Quebecers working in international cooperation, before enrolling in the Agriculture et développement international program at the University of Guelph's French-language campus, Campus d’Alfred, in Eastern Ontario. Suddenly, everything became clear: he would work in international cooperation, but through agriculture. Upon his graduation in 1994, he worked on a farming co-op in Guatemala and then at a school in Papua New Guinea that taught mechanics and agriculture to street kids. "But, little by little, I was becoming disillusioned about international cooperation. I was getting the feeling that our efforts weren't leading to concrete changes in the communities. But it's where I got the farming bug. It was where I planted my first gardens. I learned all kinds of techniques from the different communities. It was a turning point."

Francis came home. His plans were still unclear. He knew he wanted to work in agriculture. "I asked myself, where? How? In what form? That's when I discovered Equiterre and its community supported agriculture (CSA) network."

Luck was on his side. At the same time, his father retired and wanted to help his children realize their dreams. Francis's sister had a passion for horses. In 2005, they teamed up to buy a piece of land in Saint-Chrysostome, an hour outside of Montreal. "I still didn't know very much about farming, especially in Quebec, but together, we launched our projects, her stable and my organic farm."

Proximity and food security

At his new home in the Haut-Saint-Laurent regional county municipality, Francis was able to find all the help he needed to set up his farm Les Jardins d'Ambroisie. His first customers were his neighbours, who picked up their baskets from a drop-off point on the farm itself. Francis also delivered fresh organic vegetables to Montreal's Mile-End (coincidentally, the first neighbourhood to have taken part in Equiterre's family farmer network, with a pilot project in 1995). Les Jardins d’Ambroisie also produces herbs as well as some fruits, including ground cherries and melons such as cantaloupe. For other fruits, such as apples, blueberries and strawberries, he partners with nearby organic farms. "In the first year, I had thirty buyers for my baskets. The next year, that number doubled, and again, the year after that. Today, we deliver 200 organic baskets," he says with obvious pride. Community supported agriculture (CSA) accounts for 75% of his production. Francis also sells his surplus produce at market. 

"With community supported agriculture (CSA), you don't need a middleman. It creates a close relationship between the producer and the consumer. We see each other, we talk, we can send one another emails, we can have a dialogue. We receive so many wonderfully encouraging emails. We are really blessed to have so many people wishing us well. People really appreciate our work." 

"We also have the good feeling that comes from knowing that our products are safe, that no toxic substances were used. We work with various heirloom varieties of vegetables that are more nutritious, more authentic. Food security is increasingly at risk in the conventional system. Conventional farming exhausts the land. Seed companies manipulate seeds, crossing them with one another in the laboratory, prioritizing certain traits over others. More and more chemical inputs are used. The irony is that we, small producers, have to pay to certify that our product does not contain harmful chemicals. We are under surveillance, whereas conventional producers, don't have to pay anything." 

For Francis, an adherent of Falun Dafa (which developed from Qi-Gong), a discipline that works the body and mind simultaneously, "It is important to feed your mind, but also your body. One doesn't go without the other. It is an important balance to maintain." The combination of fresh organic veggies with the good feeling that stems from community supported agriculture is perhaps one of the best examples of balance that we can think of!

To learn more about Les Jardins d’Ambroisie.

This profile was made possible thanks to financial support from the following partners: