Know Your Farmer | JM Fortier La Ferme des Quatre-Temps

I’m super interested in helping with the Real Organic Project because I’m concerned about what’s happening. Frankly I feel that it’s, you know some people have worked 30-40 years promoting organic, educating people about it, being on the ground and in developing not only a big business out of it but just like a sense of awareness of consciousness and then to have it kind of stolen, like big corporations and having regulations that don’t respect what the original the goal of organic is, for me it’s very shameful and I feel very disturbed by it and so however I can support the battle against that or for something different, I’m on, I’m in. and I’m ready. I’m ready for battle! [Laughter] My name is JM Fortier, Fortier in French because I’m French-Canadian I farm here in Southern Quebec. In Hemmingford this farm is called Ferme des Quatre-temps, Four Season Farm in French and we grow five acres. It’s a market garden, no tractor. We grow on permanent raised beds. We have almost six hundred, hundred foot of these perma-beds and I here train a crew of ten young farmers to start their own two-acre Market Gardens in the next few years, so it’s a teaching ground. Soil fertility for us boils down to not tilling first of all so we try to build the soil up so the first few years we work in permanent raised beds and to clean the beds and to start new crops we tarp them so we have a lot of these black plastic tarps that we use to cover the beds and then it’s the absence of light that destroys what’s underneath and then can start fresh so we don’t till to clean our beds and then we have two or three crops per year on these beds so there’s a, you know there’s a high rapid turnover and then one of that three crop will get compost, a heavy dose of compost and then the fertility that we add is chicken manure or alfalfa meal to complement the compost-based fertility program that we have. One field block is going to be in cover crop for half a year every four years. The cover crops we want the root systems to really go down and feed the subsoil but we’re working with compost and we’re working with you know not working the soil, so not to deplete the organic matter and to raise it rather. I believe in organic that’s the reason why I got into farming I believe in soil I believe in being, you know we don’t, we farm without a tractor not because of philosophical reasons but I like being grounded I like the soil and I like I think it’s really good for my health and the people that I feed with my veggies and so for me organic is the way to go and now there’s problems with the certification because of what’s happening with the USDA and hydroponic being certified which is terrible because it’s soilless agriculture and I don’t believe in that, that’s not organic. In Canada we have a kind of different set up. So far the hydroponic systems are not certified organic, but it’s always, you know a lot of the things that are happening in the U.S. then become operating procedures for what’s going to happen in Canada so… (sigh) So for me organic it’s not just a stamp of approval meaning that you’re not using pesticides or whatever, it means that you’re working with nature you’re working with the soil and you’re a real caretaker that’s what it means to me and you know eating the food that is not grown in healthy soil, is grown hydroponically, to say for me it’s like being fed like in the hospital when you’re you know with the medical I.V. it’s just like, it’s food but it’s not it doesn’t have the umph and I think that’s why we need farmers that care so because we care about soil and then we feed people healthy food and then it creates a vibrant community. For me Whole Foods is not it’s not the answer it’s like that’s not where it’s happening you know. Local organic, in season, with the grower connecting with a CSA or connecting through a food hub or connecting through you know whatever a farmers market that’s where the good food is. That’s the good food revolution, is to have a lot of these farms present so that we can feed a lot of people. That’s what we need. There’s something that nobody can ever take away from us and from what I do what I’ve observed you know this is gonna be my 16th-17th year, is the connection I have with my customers and the the kind of vibe that they have coming to to my farmers stand is just like they want my food because they taste it, they see the freshness, they feel it, and they see my hands and they see my face and there’s something there that’s Real. That’s profound also. You know and they thank me for the food and I thank them for being there and there’s a relationship and this relationship I don’t think will never be co-opted, I don’t think it’s possible to co-opt this kind of relationship you know they from my CSA they’ve come to my farm, I know their kids name there’s this sense of community so I think the alternative is going to have a lot of these kind of circles of like-minded people feeding on one another like that but you know there’s going to need a lot of farms to connect on that level and smaller farms I think because if you want to keep it personal then you’re not wholesaling all the time, you’re direct selling, or you’re marketing your stuff in a closer niche market so I believe in that. That’s what I do and I like that. It really it boils down for me to the food grown with care by people who care and that’s where the farmers they play a role because they’re the connector in that way. Is USDA Organic salvageable? I don’t think it’s salvageable at this time but that’s very personal and I wouldn’t want to you know I just I just feel that you know there’s a lot of strong forces out there that are not sensitive to, they’re sensitive to money and you know I’m not sure this is gonna work out that way. I think there’s gonna be a lot of us from the ground up again like it happened 50 years ago starting again from scratch but I think there is more and more people wanting to connect with farmers so that’s positive. It’s not just the label anymore, it’s the farmer. That’s the revolution. If you’re an organic grower and you’re concerned about this you could you should definitely check with what the project is doing right now because it’s creating an alternative and it’s creating also an opposition to perhaps counter what’s happening now and I believe in that. Would you like a label that says “Know Your Farmer?” Yeah I’m down for that! “Know Your Farmer, have a beer with him!” You know, that’s the way to do it! Do you, do you sense that I’m not so optimistic? I feel exactly the same. I’m kind of like, I’m kind of feeling like climate change the same thing. I’m like “I don’t think we’re gonna make it” Yeah, I feel exactly the same but I also think it’s the honorable thing is to try. Yeah I agree. I’d like to talk a little bit more about what you were just saying which is that it’s easy to get very pessimistic and you said we start facing things like climate change and it quickly can become so overwhelming that we become paralyzed and the same has been true in my experience with things like the the loss of the organic label in the USDA. It’s it’s either enraging or it completely is kind of causes collapse. Yeah. So I’m curious what you think about that and what do we do about that? How do we deal how do we deal with these hard things that we want to change but we often feel powerless. Yeah. I don’t have the answer for sure. Yeah. But I like solutions and I like people that are passionate about it. Yeah, for me climate change and that, there’s something very dramatic and sad about organic being stolen. When you think about all the people that have worked towards that, educating people, and all that work just kind of being… it’s very, it always it makes me think about big brother or big business taking things and just kind of grabbing and yeah we’re, we’re fragile you know. Yeah. And I think we should embrace that more, that we’re fragile and you should be careful with everything. Yes So I don’t know, I’m in the mood now or I’m not in fighting mode, I’m kind of sad about that. I’m gonna go over, come above it at one point perhaps do something but now I’m just kind of like a bit sad about that. Yeah. At this point. One time when I was in a very rough time in my life Davey said, he said well Scott Nearing told me you plant one radish then you plant another radish and it’s just a way of moving from being paralyzed to action and it’s you know you live in a world where every day you’re planting and you’re tilling and you’re harvesting so it’s a world of kind of strong actions mm-hmm, and it’s kind of a cure, but what I’m hearing is that it’s kind of a cure for the people who eat your food too. They feel connected to that action. Yep they do. And when they can buy your food and eat it and feel better, feel healthier, they feel like they’re part of some alternative to that, some positive thing. Yeah. That corporate nastiness. Yeah. That theft. Perhaps the spin-off is going to be that, it’s going to bring more people to our tables because they’ll doubt the organic, instead of having the easy solution of just buying organic from Whole Foods they’re just gonna think perhaps not perhaps I’ll make the jump to really go local and really meet the grower and really connect with the food scene on that end. I don’t know but there’s gonna be, there’s gonna need to have consciousness about the problems, you know before people make that move. Yeah. And they need to see things that are possible too, the art of the possible is important, so that’s something very important here. Yeah. It’s you know, you did this! Yeah. You and a bunch of people did this. Yeah and it’s true. Being in the positive, action every day is good. I’m happy about that so. Perhaps more of us doing that. Yeah. More young farmers, yeah, more just let’s just do it! You know you say they came in and stole something but they didn’t. You’re doing it. Yeah. You know as Eliot says, yes many grandparents and great-grandparents and people whose gifts he passes on to us and we pass on and I don’t know, you know I think when I say that they stole organic they stole a name. Mm-hmm. But the reality of organic farming continues. Yep. And thrives and grows, not all is thriving – sometimes stealing the name actually does crush the farming but a lot of times it just springs up again, like a good hearty weed. I love it. I’m down for that! Yeah I am! Cool, all right, I think that’s good. Let’s let JM go to his dinner!

1 thought on “Know Your Farmer | JM Fortier La Ferme des Quatre-Temps

  1. Those of us that are sane need to stay the course till the insane come to sanity or jump ship and drown. Peace in us makes us strong. JM hang in there we know how this ends.

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