From yesterday to today
The initial motivations
The gradual disappearance of traditional activities linked to the land (e.g. closure of the last dairy farm in Bolton-Ouest in 2015) as well as the gradual loss of landscapes typical of the region (e.g. loss of meadows and increase in wasteland) have contributed to alert several members of the community. Added to this is the fear of one day losing agricultural land still under the status of “green zone” with galloping urbanization and the sad multiplication of the disastrous destinies of other rural municipalities. This has notably motivated the municipality of Bolton-Ouest to rethink its strategic priorities (see Final Report, August 29, 2013, https://bolton-ouest.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Plan-stratégique-de- development_BO.pdf ).
Citizen consultations allowed community members to take the pulse of the situation and to underline the urgency of working on a concerted redeployment. This is how 8 owners initially volunteered to set up a first private initiative that would combine the objectives of various stakeholders. The initiative of the Collectif de Bolton-Ouest was born from the intersection of a set of concerns of the municipality, service providers and owners:
- For the municipality and the whole community, it was important:
- To ensure agricultural and forestry succession within innovative projects and value-added activities on the territory of Bolton-Ouest;
- To rediscover the bucolic rural heritage of yesteryear (clean hilly landscapes without wasteland, healthy waterways, resilient forests, etc.).
- For service providers, it was important:
- To ensure long-term service contracts on fertile and well-maintained land;
- To create a momentum for the development of integrated initiatives (agricultural and forestry);
- To be able to benefit from a local economy in a creative and prosperous environment.
- For owners, it was important to consider their own needs and:
- To develop his property according to his own axes, his preferences and his budget (time and financing);
- To create ecological resilience (fields, forests, waterways, landscapes, biodiversity, etc.);
- To generate income in order to establish / restore a financial balance in the management of its property;
- To prepare the transfer of his property to the next generation;
- To ensure the economic resilience of your property in a popular municipality.
The current buoyant movement
The multiple motivations for leaving being numerous and complex (see Yesterday: The motivations for leaving), the Bolton-Ouest Collective has committed itself to a demanding exercise of reflection in order to acquire the tools essential to its initiative. Its first year of activity thus served to outline a rural transition project and identify priorities. Subsequently, the following values / activities naturally imposed themselves:
- Clarify a mission and a charter of values
- Draw lines of work and define priorities
- Choose an effective mode of governance
- Fund the initiative and ensure a balanced budget
- Develop collective intelligence through the complementarity of interlocutors
- Forge work discipline and accurate and systematic reporting
- Stimulate inventiveness, creativity and innovation in the search for local and sustainable solutions
- Capitalize on the dream and the passions of the members
- Exchanging, sharing and learning with pleasure
Three major areas of development
Three areas of development for the Collective stem directly from its mission and its charter of values (see: Mission and Charter of Values):
- At the operational level (production), the Collective is aiming for an ambitious trajectory evolving between “organic” agriculture, agroecology and permaculture. Thus, rural transition is broken down by grouping activities by ecosystem and by module.
- The Forests Module:
Topics covered: Individual Forest Management Plan (PAF), Collective Multi-Resource Forest Management Plan (PAFCMR), forest certification (FSC), Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), carbon credit program in private forests, etc. .
- The Maple Module:
Topics addressed: Artisanal production (old-fashioned), production with tubing system (by gravity or suction), tapping and untapping, evaporation and production of maple syrup and derived products, quota (PPAQ: Producers and Producers of Maple Syrup du Québec), niche products, liming of sugar bushes
- The Forests Module:
- The Grassland Module:
Topics covered: Owner-farmer pairs and rental/service agreements, farm plans, soil and crop analyses, Agro-Environmental Fertilization Plan (PAEF), inputs compatible with “organic” management (lime, manure and slurry, composts) and their transportation/storage/spreading, crop management and sales
- The Grassland Module:
- The Livestock Module:
Topics covered: “Highland” livestock (beef on pasture), alpacas, Chanteclerc hens and others
- The Honey Module:
Topics covered: Bolton-Ouest as the first rural municipality recognized as bee-friendly (Bee City Canada), geo-spatial distribution on the territory (balance with wild pollinators , honey plants), business plan and marketing, co-branding, honey and derived products,
- At the cross-functional level, the Collective imposes rigor and consistency in terms of sustainable development (economic, environmental and social aspects). Thus the rural transition passes through:
- Economic sustainability:
- Topics addressed: Business plans, marketing
- Environmental sustainability:
- Topics covered: Biodiversity conservation, water and energy management, carbon footprint
- Social sustainability:
- Topics addressed: Circular economy, networking, local employment
- At the transactional level (modus operandi), the Collective is inspired by the precepts of the social and solidarity economy by putting people at the heart of its local ecosystem.
- NPO structure
- Sharing of information and expertise, training
- Risk sharing and mitigation
- Pooling of equipment
- Creation of local jobs, culture of versatility (skills / seasonality)
- Commitment to pleasure
A work perspective
The Bolton-Ouest Collective is full of complementary expertise and skills. It is therefore easy to draw from it good ideas and good practices. However, it very quickly became apparent that the ability to harness these multiple energies in a respectful, productive and efficient way was, at the very least, as important as disposing of them in their raw state. This is how a mode of democratic governance quickly imposed itself and gave rise to frameworks and flexible working structures, but with a requirement for results. The arrival of a Board of Directors and principles of governance from the second year of operation, then the creation of an NPO naturally imposed themselves when they appeared to be essential for a solid and sustainable construction. .