Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

After a strong craze for organic baskets during the pandemic, subscriptions are declining for many producers. To such an extent that the season is in danger for some of them.

Tough times for organic vegetable baskets

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Organic baskets of leeks, red onions, broccoli and celery.

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“It's been two years since #x27;we start our season with debt. There, this year, we are at the end of our debt capacity,” says Anne Roussel, co-owner of Ferme Cadet Roussel located in Mont-Saint-Grégoire in Montérégie.

It is in February and March that customers must take out their subscription to receive their baskets of organic vegetables during the summer. The Cadet Roussel farm offers 500 baskets per week all year round, in normal times.

Subscriptions allow producers to start the season with an amount of money in their pocket, but this is no longer the case for the pioneer of the organic basket since the end of the pandemic.

If the difficulties encountered by Cadet Roussel attract attention, it is because it is one of the first farms to have launched the organic basket model.

It's a real warning cry and I'm not the first to say it. There are many farmers who are at the end of their rope.

A quote from Anne Roussel, co-owner of the Cadet Roussel farm

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There have been difficult weather conditions over the past two years. The number of farms is decreasing. Farmers find employment outside. Besides, this is what we were advised to do by the Financière agricole: find a job outside to keep our farm running, she says.

To get its head above water, this year, the farm is trying a new model, that of the community farm where customers become partners. This is a model that exists in the United States and Germany.

250 partners have embarked on this project so far, which represents 70% of the financial objective. The company writes that it takes $625,000 to supply approximately 300 homes with vegetables for a year.

The problem is that the deadline is today, this Friday. The decision to launch the season or not will be made this weekend, assures the co-owner.

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Anne Roussel, co-owner of the Cadet Roussel farm.

Other farms, such as Mon basket bio, located in Saint-Félix-de-Valois, have also noted a decline in popularity for vegetable baskets. During the pandemic, his small farm donated 150 baskets, triple his regular production. Over the past 2 years, this figure has dropped to 50 baskets, says owner Yan Beaudry.

To run his farm, he works alone, 70 hours a week, without paying himself a salary. His daughter is preparing to come and work with him, but he does not know if he will be able to increase his income.

According to him, several customers were disappointed by the offer of organic baskets during the pandemic. Due to the sudden supply, several producers got into it without having the experience. However, he sends this message: Try other producers. If you like to choose your basket, it's possible! Above all, don't give up right away!

The general director of the Network of Family Farmers, Émilie Viau-Drouin, mentions, for its part, the economic slowdown, the vagaries of the weather, the labor shortage and competition to explain the difficulties encountered by certain farms.

There are new players who have been added. Large grocery chains where you can find everything you can imagine in a basket and they make home deliveries. There are also other types of businesses that have emerged on the landscape, she explains.

It is certain that when there are companies that come to offer a similar product, it creates a competition that is even unfair, in the sense that it is too great. This could endanger certain farms, because these types of deliveries are made throughout the country.

A quote from the general director of the Family Farmers Network, Émilie Viau-Drouin

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">We understand that today life is crazy, that the pace is frantic, not just for cooking, but also for going to the grocery store or picking up your basket, but we like to remember that our product is unique. It’s about meeting those who produce our food. To take a moment to stop and meet them, we think it's magical, adds the general director.

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Lufa greenhouses produce vegetables all year round.

Émilie Viau-Drouin does not wish to name specific companies, but Fermes Lufa is one of these new players which has expanded and is disturbing.

On the show Anything can happen,former mayor of Huntingdon, Stéphane Gendron, who also lives on a farm , criticized Lufa for industrializing agriculture on the roofs of Montreal to the detriment of small municipalities.

Anne Roussel also finds it quite surprising to see vegetables from Montreal arriving in the countryside. How come people in the region don't say to themselves: ''where is my nearest farmer? I will encourage him! I want there to be farmland!"

Lufa Farms produces vegetables using greenhouses built on the roofs of Montreal, but also offers customers a whole range of products through their online platform. 32,000 families buy Lufa baskets, says CEO Mohamed Hage, who denies competing unfairly with local producers.

Our main competition is banners, outdoor products from Quebec, not local producers. On the contrary, Lufa's products only represent 10%, the remaining 90% are products from other producers, around a hundred of which are organic farms.

A quote from Lufa Farms CEO, Mohamed Hage

The Lufa platform makes it possible to sell local products directly to families without producers having to develop a distribution network, he explains.

In addition, times are also difficult for Lufa Farms. For two years, sales have slowed and the company is experiencing financial losses, which should be reversed in 2024, hopes Mohamed Hage.

En 2020, the company had signed for the construction of a new rooftop greenhouse, a new warehouse and an indoor farm. She carried out her projects despite the drop in income, but she has no others in sight.

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