On Sunday, September 10th, we welcomed 2500 people for a visit on the farm. We were expecting between 1000 and 2000 – we clearly underestimated people’s willingness to come! It was a great day, the weather was perfect, sunshine and 20 degrees with a little wind and a beautiful blue sky.
People came as far as Drummondville (4 hours drive), Québec city (3 hours drive) and from all over Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean. They were happy to be there to see the cows, meet us and learn about our livelihood.
As people were pouring in, we started to ask them why they were there. Many of the parents with children said they wanted to see the animals. The cows were great, they let the kids and adults pet them, ate from the hands of people they had never seen before. We were so proud of them, we made sure to say that this behavior is because they are well treated and respected by all of us.
Some visitors told us it had been a long time since they were on a farm, the family farm closed, was sold, or they didn’t know anyone anymore who own a farm. They were curious of how dairy farming had evolved and if the cows were happy. Many visitors commented on how clean it was, comparing with old times where manure was all over, and the cows were dirty from being attached and couldn’t move around. Being free range keeps them cleaner and allows for more exercise too. They also mentioned being impressed with all the robotics we have (milking, feeding, cleaning). Realizing that farmers did not have to be slaves to their animals anymore, that technology facilitates the life of both cows and farmers.
I was outside the barn at the junction of the tent and got to talk to everyone exiting both. People were surprised to learn that a dairy farmer had so much partnership. Some even realizes that when they hear about farmers, they never think about all the different field of expertise needed to succeed. I mentioned that sometimes when the media talked about dairy farmers it is to talk about problems and it always seems that the farmer work alone, but it’s not right. A whole team is supporting, advising, and working with them.
I met some very emotional people – being on the farm reminded them of their childhood, the space that they were missing. Seniors especially told us they felt part of our family, they were proud of the work we do and thanked us for farming.
They mentioned that they learned a lot during the visit! I had at least a dozen parents tell me their child wanted to be a farmer now! A few even mentioned they had forgot about farming, about the cows giving milk, that they would be more respectful towards all the products they consumed thinking about the farmers and the animals who produce it. I was the one being emotional when I had these discussions.
Such an event needs volunteers and we had the best on our side Sunday. We had planned a meal after the event for everyone to debrief the day and thank them. They were happy to have helped us and experienced such a day. There were 45 helping us make that day a success, some cooking and selling food, some managing the parking, some driving tractors, some assuring security on site and all of them answering questions from the visitors.
We were dead tired Sunday night but so happy to have opened our doors. We felt we made people happy; we gave them the opportunity to visit a modern farm and we realized that they love it, they actually miss being so far away from the food chain. It was touching seeing so many people being happy and thanking us for what we do. Now we are getting ready for harvest, another big autumn to go through. Never a dull moment on the farm!