Alexandre Richard was hooked on farming the moment his father sat him up on a tractor when he was little.
“Even as far back as grade school, I knew I wanted to be a farmer,” he says.
Now 22–he turns 23 in November–Alexandre came back to the family farm in Quebec’s Abitibi region after finishing his studies in agriculture at McGill University’s Macdonald Campus in Montreal.
He’s the third generation of his family to work the land here – and he’s enjoying it as much as he thought he would.
“It’s a great lifestyle,” he says. “It’s not always easy, but it’s all about great values.”
The family farm–la Ferme avicole Paul Richard et Fils Inc.–is a multifaceted operation in the village of Rivière-Héva, near the regional centre of Val d’Or. On top of the egg barn, the Richard family operates a feed mill and 1,000 acres under cultivation, where they grow wheat, barley and canola to feed the flock.
Alexandre works with his brother Jean-Philippe, his father Maurice and his uncle Alain, and about two dozen employees. Each family member plays to his own strength: Jean-Philippe is interested in the business management side of the operation, while Alexandre is passionate about growing the plants that are used to make the feed.
“I love working the land,” he says. “I love getting up on the tractor and starting with nothing–the land untilled–and then you work the land and you seed it and you watch the plants grow.
“The land is what nourishes us,” he adds, explaining that you can’t have quality eggs without growing good quality feed for the hens.
They grow what they can, and what they can’t grow, they try to source from as nearby as possible as part of their effort to have a sustainable operation.
The farm is one of two egg producers in the region, and they supply the surrounding area as far as the northern town of Chibougamau.
Ask Alexandre about a typical day, and he just laughs and explains there is no typical day for him.
In summer, if the weather is good, he is out in the fields tending the crops. Otherwise he helps out where he’s needed. At one point, for example, he filled in for his uncle managing the farm’s employees.
When he looks to the future, Alexandre sees himself helping with the longer-term economic development of his region.
“That’s what I’m setting myself up for,” he says. “I have lots of ideas. I like science and asking questions and finding ways to improve the way things are done.”