This Quebecer is planting the seeds of a small-scale organic farming movement

·3 min read
Jean-Martin Fortier is a regular vendor at the Jean-Talon Market. But he's also doing much more to grow the small-scale organic farming movement. (Submitted by Jean-Martin Fortier - image credit)
Jean-Martin Fortier is a regular vendor at the Jean-Talon Market. But he's also doing much more to grow the small-scale organic farming movement. (Submitted by Jean-Martin Fortier - image credit)

On any bustling weekend morning at Montreal's Jean-Talon Market, shoppers carefully examine brightly coloured bunches of fresh vegetables — radishes, red peppers, carrots — laid out on the vendors' tables.

Often standing behind one of those tables, wearing an apron over his checkered shirt and smiling widely, is the farmer who grew them.

Jean-Martin Fortier engages these potential customers with a friendly good morning and invitation to try a sample. And they respond, drawn in by his enthusiasm for the products he has grown and harvested.

Fortier is certainly what he appears to be to these shoppers: a Quebec farmer proud to display and sell the bounty of his crops. But he is much more than that.

More than a farmer

Fortier is also a best-selling author, an educator whose online course on organic farming is taught in 65 countries and the creator of two television shows about gardening and agriculture.

As a result, Fortier is recognized across Quebec for his knowledge about small-scale organic vegetable production.

His book, The Market Gardener, documents the successes of his non-mechanized, 1.5-acre farm in Saint-Armand, in Quebec's Eastern Townships, where Fortier and his family grow enough vegetables to feed hundreds of local families and live comfortably off the proceeds.

"Small-scale farming is good for the environment, the watersheds, the local economy and our health. It's positive in so many ways," Fortier says.

Vegetables at Fortier's market stand.
Vegetables at Fortier's market stand.(Submitted by Jean-Martin Fortier)

The vegetables he sells at the public market in Montreal are not from his home farm, but from a new farming project he initiated in Hemmingford, Que., called La Ferme des Quatres Temps, where Fortier seeks to show how diversified small-scale agriculture can produce food that's better for consumers — and farms that are more profitable for the growers.

All of these projects reflect Fortier's larger goal: to attract more people to participate in small-scale, local agriculture, whether as consumers, backyard gardeners or food professionals.

Telling other growers' stories

Ambitious to reach more people with his message, Fortier has recently launched his newest project, a semi-annual print magazine called Growers & Co. It celebrates small-scale growers, in Quebec and beyond, that are propelling the local, organic agricultural movement.

"I've met so many growers that are amazing in what they do," says Fortier. "I wanted to explore these stories, and that's why I started the magazine."

At $20 an issue, Growers & Co, which does not exist online, is pricier than your average magazine. But Fortier believes there is a readership of people who want to know more about the work he does and the way he, his family and colleagues live their lives.

With his new semi-annual magazine, Fortier wants to tell people more about the lives of farmers.
With his new semi-annual magazine, Fortier wants to tell people more about the lives of farmers.(Submitted by Jean-Martin Fortier)

"I've discovered people want to know more. Not just about farmers, but also people who gravitate around small-scale farming realities," he says.

In addition, any profits from the magazine or Fortier's associated retail store are contributed back into his many other projects, all of which seek to reach the same goal.

"It raises money to help farmers starting out. So for me, there's a big feedback loop of positivity and encouraging small-scale farming, and that's what we're all about," Fortier says.

In his new magazine, Fortier refers to the growth of this kind of farming as a movement that's changing the world. And he's inviting more people to join the revolution.

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