After participating in the famous local tradition that is Montreal International Jazz Festival, the class packed up and headed for the border, making stops along the way before crossing.
The first stop was La Ferme Quinn, a 150-acre agri-tourism farm on the borders of Montreal. We were enthusiastically greeted at the farm by Farmer Phil and his wife Stephanie, and we eagerly jumped on a wagon ride for a full tour. With so many different crops on the farm, including strawberries, sweet corn and Christmas trees – each available in u-pick for the public – Farmer Phil stressed the importance of his success by providing each guest on their farm with the best quality product and the best quality experience. This includes communicating to the public all on-farm practices that go into producing the best quality product. This open communication allows for people to have a greater connection to what they are eating and why they are paying the highest price in the province for the product. To end the tour, we were able to walk through their construction zone, where they are expanding their storage and retail space threefold. Their pride and spirit for the farm was contagious and there was an urge for more as we all headed back to the bus.
Continuing our travels, we stopped for lunch at Centre de santé Euro-spa. This quiet country inn was certainly spa like. After a delicious buffet, Robin lead the class in a few needed stretches on the lawn. Then it was back on the bus. Our next stop wasn't far off, the Bonduelle plant in Bedford, Quebec. The plant manager Robert Deschamps met us at the spa and led us to the site. We split into two groups to alternatively tour the plant with Sebastien Smith and learn about Bonduelle from Robert. During Robert's presentation, we watched a video about the multinational and learned just how large this multinational company is. The plant in Quebec is one of 44 plants in 11 countries. Their mission is "Living well through wholesome vegetables" and they take quality, safety and relationships with stakeholders very seriously. It's obviously working. They package 100 brands for other labels, co-pack and have their own brand Arctic Gardens. This multi-pronged approach is very effective as Bonduelle enjoys 85% of the Canadian market share. With 12 plants in North America including Quebec, Ontario and Alberta they focus on having plants very close to the farms who supply them due to the perishability of the product. Timing is critical.
Next it was off to tour the plant. We watched as cutting edge equipment received, cleaned, sorted and blanched about a trillion peas an hour. Kidding of course, but it sure did seem like it, as waves of peas worked their way through the various processes. You could tell that Bonduelle doesn't entertain tours here regularly and it was just another example of the AALP program opening doors for us.
After thanking Robert and Sebastien, it was back on the bus. Our border crossing was uneventful and the day ended at the Ramada Inn in Albany, New York.
All in all, another great day of learning, touring and spending time together.
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