Saint Matthew de Rio – Alexandre Antill’s path seemed to be predetermined. After studying botanical cultivation at the Institute of Agricultural Technology (ITA) in La Bouchatiere, he had to take on the production of hardy roses in his parents’ greenhouse. However, life and the elements decided otherwise.
number of generations
“The farm has experienced some major difficulties that have dented its financial health,” says Alexandre Antill, who has just returned from maple sap picking for a disappointing season in Bas Saint Laurent. “A fire broke out, and two years later, high winds ripped off the roof of a sawdust warehouse that had fallen on the greenhouses. The roses may be hardy, but going from 15°C to -20°C in one day was too much. My father had to sell the business , recalls the producer.
However, the sale of the family farm did not change Alexander’s taste for agriculture and the countryside. After studying at the ITA in La Pocatière, he joined the Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA) in 1996, spending 16 years in charge of public markets and union life. However, the desire to own his own farm does not leave him. With his wife, Mélanie Duquette, whom he met at ITA, the project took shape at the same time as his work at UPA..
From Mélanie, originally from Abitibi, the farm took its name: l’Abitibienne. We were looking for something profitable, viable and livable. Sheep production allowed a gradual start, ”assures Alexander Antill. This type of production gave way to the family ambitions of the couple. “My wife quickly decided to stay at home, because we started our family too quickly,” says the proud father of four children, three girls and a boy born less than About six years ago.
values and land
“From the beginning, the farm was a way to achieve what we wanted: to live in a rural environment and raise our children right there on the land,” the producer explains. “It’s a development of independence and a sense of responsibility,” says the man for whom the family is clearly central. “I’m convinced we don’t need to take trips to Walt Disney with our kids to share something. “We can pass on values, a way of being, while we pick up rocks,” insists the 46-year-old father, whose kids grew up at the same pace he did on the farm founded in 2000.
“We started from zero. Zero land, zero building. Nothing,” Alexandre Antitell recalls. “We are talking about moving a building from a neighboring land, a first year in a rented building in an adjacent row with fifty ewes,” says the producer of heavy lambs and ewes, whose females today have reached 550 ewes.
He had to make a strategic choice for the triple cross-breeding of two ewes: Dorset, Romanov and ram. A wise choice if the product is to be believed. “It must have been four or five years since we crossed 110 kilos of meat sold per ewe. This year, we’re at 114 and we’re already at 128, while the ASRA model [assurance stabilisation des revenus agricoles] He expects about fifty kilograms a year, per ewe,” says proudly a person who sees the birth of 2,200 to 2,400 lambs annually in his sheepfold.
Alexandre Anctil confirms: “Melanie and I are very focused on efficiency and productivity.” Since I was working abroad, I had very little time. We had to find ways to make the work efficient. » L’efficacité rime avec confort, comme dans aires de travail nombreuses, spacieuses et éclairées, système de caméras pour surveiller les agnelages, mégadôme de 30 pieds (9 mètres) de construc tr de cliuré été uré , And so on.
The same reasoning applies to the mechanism he shares with producer and friend, Etienne Jean, of Ferme DLC, in Saint-Simon. “I couldn’t have bought this on my own. Since there were two of us, we had the means. We equipped ourselves with high-performance tools that reduced our costs and labor needs,” says the sheep producer.
Alexandre Antel barely hesitates when asked to determine his best shot. For him, I found a partner, David Gagnon, for half of his farm a few months ago, at the end of 2021. “Today, instead of feeling tired and disgusted, rather than losing my sacred fire, I now choose to tie myself up and keep wanting to bring him back to life. [le feu sacré]’Cause I feel like I’ve lost her a little bit. I was always running,” he admits.
Selling part of his farm is still a tough choice. “You have to take part in the decision, and make concessions,” acknowledges the producer of Lambs, who nonetheless seems pleased with his decision. “Today, I am breathing and I have money, rather than waiting until 60-65 as many people do.”
Claude Fortin, Special Collaboration