A model of biointensive farming to transform global agriculture

"We want to replace mass agriculture with a mass of farmers" A really small, but profitable farm. That's what Jean-Martin Fortier has founded in Quebec. And he wants to show that an agricultural revolution is possible. He talked to Brut nature.

Kind agriculture

“The idea is to increase the number of small farms. We want to replace mass agriculture with a mass of farmers who practice ‘kind agriculture.’” In Quebec, Jean-Martin Fortier has founded the Jardins de la Grelinette, a biointensive micro-farm that’s become a model for this approach.

“When people visit my farm, there are two things that totally captivate them. First, the beauty of the place. There’s a pond and ecological niches for snakes and birds. Vegetables are growing on every square meter; we’ve maximized the production area and it’s also really small. It’s about the size of a soccer field. And even though the farm is on a small plot of cropland, less than one hectare, we make a good living. We make up to $100,000 from a hectare of vegetables. So, it’s a really small, but very profitable, model, very efficient. And we’re having a positive impact in our community. That's what was important.”, he tells Brut.

“I’ll harvest carrots and radishes, then I’ll sow some seeds, prepare the soil, package vegetables… You know, there’s no monotony in my day. That’s because we have a diversified farm, because it’s a small farm, we’re always doing different tasks. Then we sell our produce directly to consumers, to people who come over and thank us, who say, ‘Thanks for the lettuce, thanks for the gorgeous carrots, thanks for doing great work.’ Doing all of that in one day, one week makes me find my job colorful, dynamic and enjoyable even though it’s tough, even though we work hard.”, he explains.

That’s where we are today, and things need to speed up. Often there are doubts, like “Can micro-farms really feed the world? Can France cover its food needs by increasing small farms?” I have 3 answers. First, right now, all around the world, family farms are already the ones feeding the planet. All the UN reports confirm this. There’s a sort of myth about big industrial agriculture being responsible for feeding the world. Second, it’s a bogus question. We don’t care about feeding the world, we just need to feed our communities. We just need to supply the local restaurant. We just need to be part of a local organic co-op. We have to stop looking only at the big picture, and focus on one farm at a time, one community at a time. And third, today’s model is a dead end. We need to try something else.”, Fortier concludes.