CANAMEX – An exchange promoting sustainable, value-added agriculture

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Allyson Beauregard

For the second time, L’Isle-aux-Allumettes farmer and Pontiac UPA member Dave Gillespie is involved in organizing an international exchange, this time to promote the

Allyson Beauregard

For the second time, L’Isle-aux-Allumettes farmer and Pontiac UPA member Dave Gillespie is involved in organizing an international exchange, this time to promote the
concept of sustainable, value-added agriculture and its relationship to the agro tourism industry. A meeting to discuss the project, called CANAMEX (which stands for Canadian-American Exchange) was held in the St-Rémi office of the Fédération de l’UPA de la Montérégie, January 13. Gillespie co-chairs the project alongside New York’s Tom Both, who founded the Adirondack Harvest.
Also involved in the meeting, among others, was John McCart, President of the Quebec Farmers’ Association (QFA), and Chris Judd, a Pontiac dairy producer and past QFA president.
Although the project is still in its infancy, the
concept is to establish a farm circuit that the public could tour to promote
agro-tourism. The first stage is aimed at linking the Montérégie region of south-west Quebec with the states of New York and Vermont; a map pinpointing participating farms to visit along the route would be created. Eventually, the tour could be linked with other established circuits. “It would promote the agro-tourism industry on both sides of the border and encourage
people to explore other regions. People from the Montérégie could visit New York and Vermont and vice versa,” explained Gillespie, who added that mega farms will not be promoted as well as those that don’t feature sustainable agricultural practices.
According to Gillespie, there is currently a major trend in Quebec where
consumers want to know where the products they buy come from (trace-
ability). The CANAMEX
project would take advantage and develop that trend.
Pontiac MP Will Amos said he has presented the concept to Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture, and that they broadly support the project.
Gillespie organized two tours in the Montérégie region in 2002 and 2004 for Adirondack farmers, dignitaries, organizations, various levels of government and the media. The visits were essentially to small-scale, value-added farms. “The tours were hugely successful and since then, there has been a substantial increase in farming activity in the Adirondacks… they were inspired to create their
own operations,” explained Gillespie, noting there was essentially no farming
activity of that kind in the area prior to the tours.
Given that the activity in the Adirondacks is very similar to the Pontiac with mainly small, diversified operations, Gillespie is
currently working on a way to integrate the Pontiac into the CANAMEX project so the two areas
can exchange information, knowledge, and culture.
The Montérégie is one of the largest farming regions in Québec with 6,977 farms and 11,734 producers; its producers represent about 30% of agricultural income in Quebec. It is approximately 300 kilometres south-east of MRC Pontiac.