A different kind of harvest:  How rehabilitated under-utilized or fallow lands are creating economic diversification opportunities for rural communities in Quebec

Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest

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Agriculture and the forest industry have been going through difficult times for a number of years now in several of Quebec’s regions. The industry’s traditional business model, among others, is declining at a steady pace, and the agricultural sector is being subject to threats such as major multilateral trade agreements that are likely to jeopardize its competitiveness. In response, some rural communities have chosen to diversify their economic activities. In this context, the harvesting of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) appears to be one of the solutions that could contribute to revitalizing these rural regions.

“Non-timber forest products” (NTFPs) refers to products of biological origin other than timber. The range of NTFPs is very diverse and includes small fruits, plants used for food and medicine, ornamental plants, mushrooms, and sap and other components from a number of trees. The value of some of these products amounts to several million dollars.

               Example of non-timber forest products that can be cultivated and commercialized in Quebec

Small fruits  Plants used for food Medicinal plants Ornamental plants Mushrooms
wild blueberry fiddlehead American ginseng ox-eye daisy king bolete
oyster mushroom
wild cranberry Labrador tea common yarrow rough rose chanterelle and trumpet chanterelle
serviceberry flowers Canada yew Mosses morel
chaga
various grains
chokeberry
cattail teaberry
goldenseal
fir and
other tree branches
matsutake
lobster mushroom

              Source: Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest, 2016.

Agroforestry gardens

diff harvest img 2Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest (LSJMF) is currently managing a project focusing on under-utilized or fallow lands and the cultivation of a range of NTFPs.  NTFPs help offset the challenge of ensuring a sustainable and competitive agroforestry sector. This project is carried out on twenty (20) sites throughout the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region - some of which are within the boundaries of the LSJMF landscape.

History

In 2015, Créneau d’excellence AgroBoréal, the project instigator, invited LSJMF to lead the project due to the close alignment with LSJMF’s mission to diversify the development of forest resources within its boarder.  LSJMF’s sound understanding of the issues at stake and its ability to act as a project proponent made it an obvious participant that could provide an added value and leadership to the project, in particular, demonstrating the strong potential for commercialization of NTFPs. The project was thus drawn up jointly by the Créneau, LSJMF and Agrinova, a college centre for the transfer of technology. Collectively these partners are enabling its implementation.  

Project description

The objective of the Agroforestry Gardens 02 project is to test five types of agroforestry landscapes on which a dozen or so NTFPs will be introduced. These have been selected using criteria from a literature review describing the active components and known uses for approximately forty NTFPs and other cultivations. An analysis of agronomic and marketing opportunities has also made it possible to identify the NTFPs of greatest interest.  

Project status
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Fifteen private sites owned by businesses with land to be enhanced and five sites on the public land within five regional county municipalities (RCM) are currently in production. Some initial crops have already been harvested. It is noteworthy that the project does not deal with the marketing aspect, however; a Facebook group was created to promote the exchange of information and create synergy between producers and other NTFP stakeholders in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region.

This project aims to test models of agroforestry development and offer innovative opportunities for commercialization of the NTFP sector while contributing to changing the regional culture of these often-misunderstood resources. The project will continue for another year and should come to an end in November 2017. We will let you know as soon as we obtain conclusive results!
 
For more project information, contact:

Serge Harvey, Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest serge.harvey@fmlsj.ca
Isabelle T. Rivard, Créneau d’excellence AgroBoréal, isabelletrivard@agroboreal.com
www.agroboreal.com http://agroboreal.com/project/jardinsagro