La Ferme Agriber in St-Isidore has been named the winner of the 2020 Dave Reid Award from ALUS Canada.

The award, in the amount of $10,000 was presented to farm owner Marc Bercier, who runs La Ferme Agriber with his wife Chantal, son Guillaume and daughter-in-law Karin. The Dave Reid Award recognizes participating ALUS farmers and ranchers who are excellent stewards of the land and who have done outstanding and innovative work in producing ecological services on their farms through ALUS.

ALUS Canada is a national program aimed at helping farmers and ranchers produce cleaner air, water and more biodiversity in their communities. Bercier, who also owns Marc Bercier Seed Cleaning in St-Isidore said he was honored to win the award. The fourth generation family farm has seen a transformation in recent years to a more environmentally friendly operation, including the creation of a conservation area on the property.

“Eight years ago we purchased the neighbor’s field and there was a gully that we used to pasture the cows – there were wild strawberries and we used to toboggan (there),” recalls Bercier, who received recommendations to tile drain the gully and turn it into agriculture land.

Rather than go ahead with the project, Bercier called ALUS, who sent a representative to visit La Ferme Agriber the next day. By the end of the visit plans were made to instead turn the gully into an environmental preserve. With the help of funds from ALUS, a dike was built to create a pond and the gully was transformed into a miniature Garden of Eden which can be visited by the public.

“That was the beginning of many ideas,” Bercier remembers, “We planted shrub trees, trees and wildberries. I put some wildflowers to create – right in the middle of my farm – a pollination site.”

In the eight years since joining ALUS, La Ferme Agriber has worked on transforming into a more natural operation, reducing the use of chemicals and expanding into renewable crops such as hemp. Bercier says the farm will continue to head in an environmentally friendly direction and intends to use the funds from the Dave Reid Award to assist in preserving nature in the South Nation region.

“I just need to find the best way to invest that money into something that will have a domino effect on the positive side of protecting the environment,” said Bercier, who intends to direct the funds to education and in community gardens and other projects in the area.