MOOSE CREEK — The Quesnel family is one of 11 recipients of the 2019 BMO Ontario Farm Family award.
The awards are organized by BMO and the Ontario Plowmen’s Association to recognize family-run farms that are leading the way on incorporating sustainability, community involvement, land stewardship and adaptability into their farming practices.
“Every year, we’re excited to honour the families that exemplify a sense of community, strong values, and hard work – all qualities at the heart of the rural way of life and the agriculture community,” said Steve DeMarco, BMO’s vice-president of business banking, Northern Ontario. “These 11 families demonstrate how heritage and innovation can work hand in hand to further farming in the province.”
The Quesnels run Ferme LCM Quesnel Inc. where they do a mix of dairy and cash-crop farming, with dairy being their primary source of income. The family was nominated for the award by a friend who works at a local BMO branch.
“We are quite pleased,” said Marc Quesnel. “It’s nice to get a little something that says ‘hey, we can see you guys are involved, and you are doing good.’ It’s always nice to be recognized, but we don’t do it for that.”
So why were the Quesnels chosen for the award?
Somewhat ironically for an award being organized in part by the Ontario Plowmen’s Association, the Quesnel Family are pioneers in a growing trend for sustainability and land stewardship in agriculture: minimal-till farming.
Plowing a field makes planting crops easier, but there is an entire ecosystem underground sustaining the soil that is disrupted by the practice. Every time the ground is tilled, it can deplete the soil of nutrients normally replenished by organisms and open up the topsoil to erosion.
A growing number of farmers are experimenting with farming methods that disturb the natural state of the ground as little as possible. The Quesnels have been doing it for decades.
“We have been practicing minimum tillage for more than 40 years … it’s something my father started doing, and we kept doing it,” explained Quesnel.
“The key is getting planting equipment that can put seed in the ground that has not been disturbed. It has to be done the right way during the right weather conditions, so there are some challenges. But once you get along and learn how to get past those challenges, it works quite nicely.”
When it comes to community involvement, every member of the family who is involved in the day-to-day running of the farm is also involved in various community and agriculture industry organizations.
Marc Quesnel is a co-op administrator since 1993, and is also a co-chair at the Union des Cultivateurs Franco-Ontariens.
His wife Ginette is chair of Moose Creek Chamber of Commerce and is the past-president and secretary at the local Optimists Club.
The three of their adult children with ownership stakes in the farm are also involved in the community. Their son Pascal is a part-time firefighter and a director of a farm machinery co-op. Their daughter Valérie is on the board of St-Albert Cheese Co-op, on the committee of the Moose Creek Optimist Club, and has been a board member of the Groupement de Gestion Agricole. Their son Joel, meanwhile, is on the Stormont County milk committee and is a founding member of the local chapter of the Junior Farmers Association of Ontario.
“We really believe that we have to be involved to help get the community going,” said Quesnel.
This is not the first time a farm family from SDG has been recognized – in 2018 the Zummach family from the Lunenburg area was one of the recipients.
The formal presentation of the award will take place at the 2019 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo, scheduled to take place in Verner, Ont., which lies west of North Bay.