Live with less than a hectare, is it possible?

 Most of the stakeholders in the agricultural sector are skeptical of the possibility of making a micro-vegetable farm or, as we call it, a market garden. And possibly, they will stand in obstacle for some of you wanting to start a project similar to ours. Do not worry too much, because mentalities change as the micro-agriculture, in the United States, Japan, and elsewhere in the world, demonstrates the impressive potential of artisanal production operating in short circuits. In Quebec, the Jardins de la Grelinette made this demonstration and several initially skeptical interveners took note. During our first year of operation, the farm generated $ 20,000 in sales, with a cultivable area of ​​a quarter of a hectare. The following year, our sales more than doubled, rising to $ 55,000, always growing on the same face. In our third year of operation, we have invested in new tools and we are established on the current site of our gardens, Saint-Armand. By increasing our surface by the cultivation of three-quarters of a hectare, our sales have hit $ 80,000, then $ 100,000 on our fourth season. This is when our micro-farm has reached a level of production and a success financing that most stakeholders in agriculture believed to be impossible. When we have made public our turnover, through of an agricultural competition, our company received an important award recognizing the excellence of its economic returns.


For more than a decade, my wife and I had no other income than the one we provided our market garden of less than one hectare. I know of many other small producers who also succeed in making a comfortable income from their small farm intensive cultivation. The model is profitable, proofs are made. In truth, he is even realistic to think that you can get a fairly generous income from it. A well-established market garden with a production plan well established and benefiting from good points of sale, can generate annually between $ 60,000 and $ 120,000 in sales for less of a hectare cultivated with various vegetables, with a profit margin greater than 40%. A net income is favorably comparable to several other sectors of agricultural activity. 


To live on it, but above all to live well


The idea that most people have about our job is that we are relentless, working seven days a week, without respite, to ultimately hardly earn our living. An image probably inspired by the reality of a large part of conventional farmers caught in the grip of modern agriculture. Indeed, the job of a market gardener is sometimes difficult. Beautiful weather bad weather, we are subject to the vagaries of complicated climate to predict. The beautiful harvests and good seasons are never guaranteed and it is necessary to have a good dose of courage and dedication, especially during the early years of establishment, while the clientele and infrastructure are still to be built.


Nevertheless, it is an extraordinary profession that is characterized less by the number of hours spent at work and wages only by the quality of life he procures. Few can imagine it, but despite the intensity of our work, there is still plenty of time to do other things. Our season starts slowly in March and ends in December. It's still nine months of work for three months of free time. Winter becomes a precious moment to rest, travel and do any other activity. I like to remind those who imagine us doing a job of hunger pangs that our work allows us to live in the countryside, to reconcile work and family in a natural environment, and to guarantee our job security, compared to jobs in a large company where layoffs are unpredictable and frequent. This is a huge advantage.


Having spent a lot of time writing this manual, I can also tell anyone worried about the physical abilities required by the trade that full-time gardening is a prerequisite. less "hard" for the health and the body than to stay sitting in front of a computer screen several hours a day. By saying this, I hope to reassure some. Indeed, it is not a question of age, but rather of will. With or without agricultural baggage, anyone who is serious and motivated can learn this traditional profession for everyone. It's about investing your time and enthusiasm in it.


Since our farm welcomes interns wishing to establish in agriculture, I observed that the vast majority of those who tend towards this profession seem to want to do it for a good reason fundamental. While wanting to be their boss and enjoy the great outdoors as often as possible, many of them are attracted by the idea of giving meaning to their work. I understand that they make this choice because being a family farmer is a very rewarding job. Our labor in the gardens is regularly rewarded by all these families who eat our vegetables and thank us personally every week. For those who wish to live differently, while seeking an alternative lifestyle, I think it is important to specify that it is not only possible to live, but also to live well.