SAINT-MATHIEU-DE-RIOUX – Alexandre Anctil’s path seemed to have been mapped out in advance. After studying plant farming at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire (ITA) in La Pocatière, he was supposed to take over the production of hardy roses in his parents’ greenhouse. However, life and the elements decided otherwise.
number of generations
“The farm has suffered some major difficulties that have weakened its financial health,” says Alexandre Anctil, who has just returned from harvesting maple sap for what promises to be a disappointing season in Bas-Saint-Laurent. . “There was a fire and two years later strong winds tore off the roof of the sawdust warehouse that fell on the greenhouses. Roses can be hardy, but going from 15°C to -20°C in one day was too much. My father had to sell the company”, recalls the producer.
However, the sale of the family farm did not change Alexandre’s taste for agriculture and rurality. After his studies at the ITA de La Pocatière, he joined the Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA) in 1996, where he spent 16 years at the helm of public markets and union life. However, the desire to own his own farm does not abandon him. With his wife, Mélanie Duquette, whom he met at ITA, the project took shape, at the same time as his work at UPA..
It is from Mélanie, originally from Abitibi, that the farm takes its name: l’Abitibienne. “We were looking for something profitable, viable, livable. Sheep production allowed a gradual start”, says Alexandre Anctil. This type of production also lent itself well to the couple’s family ambitions. “My wife quickly decided to stay home because we started our family very, very quickly,” says the proud father of four children, three girls and a boy born in the space of just under six years.
values and land
“From the beginning, the farm was a way to achieve what we wanted: to live in the countryside and raise our children there on the land”, explains the producer. “Raising children on the farm is amazing. It is the development of autonomy, of a sense of responsibility”, says the man for whom the family clearly occupies a central place. “I’m convinced that we don’t need to take trips to Walt Disney with our kids to share something. We can transmit values, a way of being, picking up stones”, insists the 46-year-old father, whose children grew up at the same pace as the farm founded in 2000.
“We started from scratch. Zero land, zero building. Nothing”, recalls Alexandre Anctil. “We are talking about moving a building from neighboring land, a first year in a leased building in a neighboring row with fifty sheep”, says the producer of heavy lambs and replacement sheep, whose number of females has reached 550 today.
He had to make the strategic choice of triple hybridization of his sheep: Dorset, Romanov and slaughter ram. A wise choice if the producer is to be accredited. “It must have been four or five years since I surpassed the 110 kilos of meat sold per sheep. This year we are at 114 and we have already reached 128, while the ASRA model [assurance stabilisation des revenus agricoles] predicts about fifty kilos a year, per ewe”, says proudly those who see 2,200 to 2,400 lambs being born a year in their fold.
“Mélanie and I are very focused on efficiency and productivity”, emphasizes Alexandre Anctil. As I was working away, I had little time. We had to find ways to make the work efficient. » Efficiency rhymes with comfort, as in numerous spacious and well-lit work areas, camera system to monitor births, 9 meters high megamedome with tunnel ventilation and electronic climate control, automatic feed distributor, etc.
The same reasoning applies to the machinery he shares with a producer and friend, Étienne Jean of Ferme DLC in Saint-Simon. “I could never have bought this on my own. As we were two, we had the means. We equip ourselves with high-performance tools that reduce our costs and our labor needs”, says the sheep producer.
the company’s success
Alexandre Anctil doesn’t hesitate when asked to identify his best shot. For him, it’s having found a partner, David Gagnon, for half of his farm a few months ago, at the end of 2021. partnering with me and keeping the desire to bring him back to life [le feu sacré], because I feel that I lost a little. I was always running,” he admits.
Selling part of your farm remains a difficult choice. “You have to share decision-making, make concessions,” admits the lamb farmer, who, however, seems happy with his decision. “Today, I breathe and have money, instead of waiting until 60-65, as many people do. »
Claude Fortin, special collaboration