Bernard Bonneau is over six feet tall, but when he stoops to pluck a leaf off one of his spinach plants he is like a kid in a candy shop. The grin on his face says it all. He has good reason to be pleased. His spinach plants are a deep green and bursting with life. He passed me a leaf to taste and it quite literally melts in my mouth. Planted last fall, this winter hardy crop was ready to harvest in March.
Organic spinach is not his only business. In Bonneau’s two greenhouses, which he built himself, are rows of Asian mix, mustard greens, French radish, and mesclun. And then there is his award-winning garlic. Everything is organic. Everything is planted, picked, and sorted by hand.
Bonneau never thought he would grow up to be farmer. His parents bought a small farm in Très-Saint-Rédempteur as a retirement project in the 1980s, an hour’s drive west of Montreal. Bonneau liked growing things, but it wasn’t until the birth of his daughter and his return to the family farm a few years ago that he began to think of gardening as something more than a hobby.
Last year was his first year as a commercial grower and it went well. Better than he imagined. This year he is back with a larger variety of greens that will be harvested over the spring, summer, and fall seasons. He even has plans to cultivate sprouts over the winter months.
Bonneau is part of a new wave of small-scale artisanal producers who are able to make a living from their gardens. A student of Yves Gagnon, a pioneer in the organic gardening movement in Quebec, author, and co-founder of Les Jardins du Grand-Portage, Bonneau has learned from a master. His practice of intensive organic gardening has come of age in a time when a preoccupation with food security is no longer a marginal concern.
Bernie’s Greens can be contacted at 450-451-5486
Read more of the Who’s Your Farmer series here.