We just got back from an agricultural trip (with other farmers from Québec) to Ireland and the Netherlands. We try to do this kind of working trip every other year, but the global pandemic slowed us down.
The world has changed so much since 2020. Visiting another continent and learning from other farmers was a welcome opportunity. We’re all dealing with similar issues: produce more (wheat, grass, flowers, milk, etc.) while maintaining and lowering costs. And, of course, labour availability is a hot topic in all advanced economies.
In Ireland, we went to Adare (a village in County Limerick, located south-west of the city of Limerick). Adare is designated as a heritage town by the Irish government. It is where SAMCO is located.
SAMCO is a family business that developed, designed and now manufactures the SAMCO 3-in-1 machine which sows seed, sprays the soil with pre-emergence herbicide, and lays a thin layer of degradable mulch film over the seed bed. This operation protects the young plants from late frost, increases the soil temperature and thereby maximises yield per hectare. Such technology is very useful in our region (Lac Saint-Jean) due to our weather. It is also used in northern Ontario and Alberta.
These SAMCO machines are used in over 25 countries around the world, a sign of the global need for sustainability solutions. The company’s Adare facility has doubled in size since 2020.
The farmers on the trip all use these SAMCO machines. So, it was great to meet the people who build them, see how they are built, and discuss with experts how to get the best out of them. We also met Irish farmers who use the technology to hear how they use it.
Many farmers here use it and it’s one reason we can grow more and more corn locally.
Some climates like ours need heat to protect young plants. But in Africa they need humidity for the young plant to grow. SAMCO provides solution for all climates. We found it rewarding to know we are part of a sustainable solution that can be used around the world.
We couldn’t go to Ireland without making a stop in Dublin. What can I say, being there on Easter weekend while they celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement was special.
(For Quebecers like us, who come from a region that for a long time seemed like the cradle of separatism, it was a nice reminder that our situation was never as bad and that we, too, are in a good place now.)
I personally love Ireland, I like the people, the food, the scenery, I like it all! It was my second time visiting and I can’t wait to go back.
Then it was off to the Netherlands!
I didn’t realize it before going, but in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch were arguably the most economically wealthy and scientifically advanced of all European nations. It was the Dutch Golden Age and that period allowed the Dutch to expand and reclaim more agricultural land.
The Dutch have a saying: “God made the Earth, but the Dutch made Holland.” The North Sea is their enemy number one; they are at war with it.
Over the years, they built canals, dams, dikes, and pumping stations to keep the sea and rivers back. Today, more than 1,491 miles (2,400 kilometers) of dikes shield the low, flat land —almost half of which lies below sea level — from the North Sea. Without the existing dikes, 65 percent of the country would be flooded daily (Background).
Like in Ireland, most Dutch farms are family owned and operated.
We stayed in Amsterdam. Just 20 minutes outside the city, you see farms.
In the Netherlands, land is scarce so the cost of it is very high compared to Canada. Up to 285,000 Euros per hectare vs. about $14 000 here. As in Canada, in the Netherlands, the more north you go, the more affordable land is. The difference, of course, is all Dutch land is arable.
We visited Lely Industries, a leading dairy robot manufacturer based in Maassluis. Most dairy robots in Lac Saint-Jean are Lely-made. Again, sustainability was central to all discussions.
Dutch farmers are under pressure from the European Union to reduce their nitrogen emissions. Manure mixed with urine creates ammonia, and when this washes away into ditches, rivers and the sea, it can be harmful to nature. Air scrubbers and excrement-sweeping robots operate in barns, while sloping floors help reduce contact between the manure and urine. Lely showed us machinery that will help farmers reduce their emissions even further.
(The Quebec government announced on April 20th a groundbreaking, $3.6 million project to reduce methane emissions from the province’s dairy herds by 14-16%. Quebec is one of the first places in the world to take such a step, and the project promises to make every kilogram of milk produced by 2028 even more eco-friendly than it is now.)
We farmers left Lely’s facilities knowing we were not alone in search of more sustainable farming way; Lely is right there with them.
The trip was very informative and eye-opening. Farmers in North America and Europe are looking for more sustainable ways to work. And we face many of the same challenges (costs and labour).
In French we have a saying: Quand on se compare on se console. When we compare ourselves, we console ourselves.
We took comfort in the assurance that the grass is not greener elsewhere.
It’s a privilege to be a farmer in Canada where land is abundant, prices are still relatively affordable, and the future is bright.
A consistent consumer of Canadian products (food, clothing, furniture, etc.), Isabelle Bouchard is a city girl now living in the countryside on a dairy and crop farm in Lac Saint-Jean, Québec.
Self-employed since 2019, she was previously employed by great Canadian companies and the Government of Canada. Consult her LinkedIn profile for details.
Isabelle is excited to participate with friends in this great project. Both Canadian producers and products need the support and love of Canadians to shine and prosper. There are so many people who denigrate our producers and our Canadian products that she feels it is almost a duty to participate in C3FC.