Sean Butler and Genevieve LeGal-Leblanc have been involved in farming for many years. Sean has worked on several small farms across Canada, while Genevieve ran her own urban-based organic vegetable CSA after studying agriculture and international development. But in 2012, the pair decided to purchase their 154-acre property, Ferme et Forêt (Farm and Forest), in the rolling hills near Wakefield, Quebec.
Sean and Genevieve now raise Animal Welfare Approved laying hens on this productive and plentiful land and grow vegetables in their market garden, as well as collecting forest edibles, such as fiddleheads and wild plums, and tapping around 3,000 maple trees for maple syrup within the 100 acres of hardwood forest at Ferme et Forêt.
The flock of 99 laying hens consists of a delightful mixture of breeds, including Plymouth Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. Free to perform their natural behaviors, such as scratching and pecking for seeds and insects, the flock is happy and healthy, roaming and foraging on pasture all day. “We keep chickens for more than just their eggs,” Sean explains. “The birds help prepare ground for planting through scratching and eating weeds and weed seeds. They also eat insect pests, and their manure helps fertilize our plants. They add life to the farm and the kids and the chickens entertain each other!”
The most important aspect of animal husbandry at Ferme et Forêt is that every animal on the farm lives a happy life. “I want to see all animals—whether they are humans, livestock, or the wild animals we share the land with—enjoying their lives and living the way they are naturally inclined to,” says Sean. “This is valuable in itself, but happy livestock also leads to healthier animals and healthier food for us humans, so it’s a win-win situation.”
Sean and Genevieve decided to pursue AWA certification because they wanted to take their farm to the next level: “We wanted to subject our farm to independent third-party verification to show our customers that our animal husbandry practices are top-notch,” says Sean. “I like the stringent standards set by AWA and, truth be told, we were almost there with our practices before certification. I also like the support that AWA offers farmers, and plan to take advantage of some of their deep knowledge base.”
The goals at Ferme et Forêt are to establish a diverse agroecosystem that provides delicious and healthy food and other useful products to the local community, restore the ecological health of the land, respect all life, and offer a working example to other farmers and would-be farmers of an agricultural system that is both environmentally and financially sustainable. As Genevieve explains, “we are interested in not only creating healthy food for humans, but we also want to give the animals the best life that they can have. We try to look at it on a holistic level, which is why we feel that our AWA certification has an important role in public education.”
Pasture-raised eggs from Ferme et Forêt are available directly from the farm—call (819) 459-3861 to check current availability. For more information about Ferme et Forêt, visit www.fermeetforet.ca.