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Living off the land in the 21st century

From left to right, six-month-old Vallie, Eleni Corbeil, Patrick Lalonde, Richard Lalonde and, of course, Kip, waiting for someone to try and steal his massive stick. (Photo credit: Cedrik Bertrand)

Here’s something we all know: there are many types of farms. While that, in itself, is interesting, what’s even more fascinating is the “why?”.

Why farm this instead of that?

Why “living things”?

Why “growing things”?

Why both?

Is it first and foremost a business; for profit?

Is it a hobby?

For Patrick Lalonde and Eleni Corbeil, the answer is the original one: they farm to live off the land as much as possible.

Lalonde represents the third generation of family members to own the farm, located on a beautiful piece of land near the shores of the Ottawa River, in L’Orignal.

“Our specialty is variety,” said Lalonde.

“Our main goal is to be self-sufficient. We produce our dairy products – milk, cheese, yogurt, butter – so we have Jersey cows. For pork, we have a mix of Berkshire and boar. We have beef cattle. We have honeybees and managed to produce 500 pounds of honey last year. We have chickens for eggs and a 3000-square-foot vegetable garden.”

Every variety of vegetable needed to be self-sufficient is planted in this 3,000 square feet garden. The family takes what it needs and the rest is sold at the booth or to local grocery stores. (Photo credit: Cedrik Bertrand)
Here, we see feeding time for the Berkshire male, the 600-pound king of the pen.
Feeding time for the herd of Berkshire-wild board mix. On the right, we can see the boar female (a darker grey shade).

So far, it seems like the couple’s efforts are paying off, since they’ve already starting selling excess root vegetables from last season through their road-side booth.

According to Lalonde, sales are pretty good – to a point where he would consider adding more hens if he had the time to manage additional farm work.

“I own a physiotherapy clinic in L’Orignal so we already work 50 hours a week.”

Lalonde’s clinic, Lalonde Physio (located at 935 King, L’Orignal), is another success story onto itself. Today, the clinic boasts many services, such as physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage therapy, ergo therapy and access to a psychologist.

“I’m looking to expand. I recently signed a contract with the sports complex in Hawkesbury to open a satellite office. I’m currently looking for one or two additional physiotherapists.”

Yesterday and today

During the past three generations, Lalonde’s farm has understandably changed priorities. At first, his grandfather was busy making the quota with his dairy farm. Then, when a war banned the import of German hops, 60 acres were dedicated to growing hops.

When Lalonde’s father and uncle (Richard and Pierre-Yves, respectively) took over, the farm held a 50-strong herd of beef cattle.

Lalonde’s two remaining bee colonies. Sadly, two colonies were lost during the winter. Last season, the farm produced 500 pounds of honey.
The farm holds two dairy cows and three for meat production. The lady in the centre is a dairy cow – a mixture of Jersey and Guernsey.

“After university, I lived out West for a while. When I came back, my father was ready to sell the farm, so I had to quickly decide what I wanted to do. I concluded that I simply couldn’t let the opportunity pass.”

Anyone who knows Lalonde shouldn’t be surprised by this decision, for his lifestyle mirrors his core values.

“I strongly believe in the values that come with the farm: responsibility, hard work, taking care of other living beings; of the Earth. It creates a strong bond, so I decided to buy the farm and Eleni joined me.”

One of the values held on this new version of the farm is to keep things, in our modern parlance, organic.

3,000 trees were recently planted around the farm’s land. One of the goals is to create a natural wind fence between neighbouring farms. Maple and Norwegian Spruce we’re planted. (Photo credit: Cedrik Bertrand)

“We don’t use any artificial herbicide, pesticide or fertilizer,” said Lalonde.

“Also, since we’re busy with the clinic, we rent 65 acres out to an organic farm called Fermes Bio-Net. We’re very lucky to have a neighbour that also runs an organic farm.

A looming threat

For the past few years, one of the area’s hot topics has been Colacem’s plans to build a cement plant near L’Orignal.

Since the news broke, Lalonde has been one of the loudest voices against the project, publicly sharing concerns that are in direct conflict with his core values.

The family’s roadside booth, located in front of 2310 Bay Road, near L’Orignal. (Photo credit: Cedrik Bertrand)

“Six months ago, my daughter Vallie was born. I’d love to see her grow up on this land; to ensure the farm’s continuity.”

If the cement plant construction goes forward, it would be built in Lalonde’s backyard, Colacem’s land being Lalonde’s southern neighbour.

“We don’t want to raise our daughter in the shadow of a 410-foot-tall chimney. There’s too much irony in being self-sufficient with an organic farm next to a plant that burns petcoke 24-7.”

The booth has eggs for sale at $4 and uses the honour system for the trade of vegetables. (Photo credit: Cedrik Bertrand)

Having been next to the quarry his whole life, Lalonde has no problem with the current excavation setup. However, for him, a cement plant is where the line should be drawn.

“Being a healthcare provider, I believe that the body is a temple that should be well cared for. If such heavy industry is to move next door, it’s hard to imagine sticking around.”

This imminent threat has put the farm in a type of stalemate, Lalonde being reluctant to invest until construction of the plant is a sure thing.

“It’s up to the province to listen to us and help, now. We’ll just have to wait for the OMB hearing.”

The OMB hearing is scheduled to take place in September 2018.

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