Last week Rick and Shirley Ladouceur welcomed me to their farm. I have visited multiple times in the past but it was only to quickly pop into their store. This would be my very first peek behind the curtain of Chez Nous Farms, an entirely certified organic operation.
Both Rick and Shirley walked me through their property, proudly showing off different crops and discussing how life on the farm really is. When they purchased the property a few years ago, it was originally a horse ranch. What used to be a horse shelter is now being used to house their chickens. In fact, several small buildings on the property have been converted for their use. I was amazed at their ability to re-use and recycle. They didn’t see buildings to be torn down but decided instead to minimize waste, cost and time to repurpose these things. This carries down into their entire process and approach at Chez Nous Farms.
The farm is a small one at just a few acres and their house takes up a portion of that land. In fact, if you drive down their street you wouldn’t even know there was a farm. The only notable difference is a sign out front and their small self-serve store in the driveway.
Living on the dream of becoming farmers, Rick and Shirley only recently made that a reality. Always eating organic themselves it was a natural thing to decide to take an organic farming approach. They originally intended to only have a chicken farm but Shirley’s heart lies in vegetables. Always scouring seed catalogues and trying new varieties, the farm has ended up dedicating a large amount of space to its crops.
In a world full of soil depletion with standard farming, the soil at Chez Nous Farms is only getting better season after season. Rick and Shirley attribute this to their die-hard organic nature. With proper plant rotation, soil treatment and a little manual care it is really paying off for them. Great soil means great produce which is evident as their business is doubling every year so far. A pretty terrific feat for two people that haven’t paid a dime for advertising.
Getting to see the chickens was exciting for me. I find chicken behaviour quite amusing and could spend hours watching them. Their chickens feed directly from the ground and have free run of a large part of the property. They have both birds for meat and for eggs.
I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying organic eggs from Chez Nous Farms on multiple occasions and I can confirm they are fantastic. There is such a demand for their eggs that they’ve set up an Egg CSA program for people dependent on availability. It’s an experiment now but seems to be really taking off. As a year round operation (even their self-serve store), the sale of eggs continues as the chickens stay active and keep producing. Eggs are never out of season!
Speaking of CSA programs, this was their first year to attempt a CSA membership program with their farm. What is a CSA? Here is an excerpt taken from Chez Nous Farms directly:
Community shared agriculture or CSA is a unique arrangement between you the consumer and we, the farmer, in which you commit to paying a “share” or subscription fee in the beginning of the season for which you will receive a “share” of the harvest throughout the growing season. This provides the farm with a stable early season income that helps to cover the cost of seed and supplies while providing you with peace of mind knowing you soon will be receiving weekly organic produce that is wholesome, local and grown on our land without the use of chemicals or synthetic pesticides.
So far the CSA program has been going great. Starting with a small amount of people (only 17) it has allowed more time, care and love to be put into each basket. Shirley washes, preps and adds extra touches where she can. You might find little flowers in your salad mix, fresh salsa or even some pesto. It’s evident that the happiness of the customer is paramount at Chez Nous Farms. They are already getting calls for people asking to reserve for next year!
If I had to use a single word to describe Chez Nous Farms it would be ‘love.’ Why love? As I walked through the farm and chatted with Rick and Shirley it was easy to recognize.
The two of them are always thinking of ways to improve the farm and pour every bit of money and effort into making it the best possible. Their whole world revolves around it. Rick has even slept on a roof to catch a chicken predator. Shirley already knows where everything will be planted and rotated for the next 8 years.
With two kids and rarely a vacation or even a single day away, you would think Rick and Shirley would look haggard and run-through. Nope – they truly love their life and their farm. In fact when talking about what would happen if they won a bunch of money Shirley said, “Would we buy another farm or do something else? No. We would just fix up this place because we love it.”
What does the future hold for Chez Nous Farms?
- Rick has taken a small contract sponsored by the Trillium Foundation, managed by Sofifran. They are developing the Center Of Agriculture Excellence Niagara Program that he will be teaching in local schools.
- Shirley will go back to her full-time job as a Child and Youth Worker but would love to come home and eventually work at the farm permanently.
- They have plans to construct a 100ft hoop house to extend their growing season.
- The Egg CSA program will be continuing.
- CSA membership is still planned for next year.
- The springtime will bring their seedling sale to the public.
To learn more about Chez Nous Farms or to contact them directly, please visit their website.