Some people fear change. The Alary family laughs about it.
“When we sit down to talk about the business, we talk about today but also about the future – we talk about the farm but also about our lives,” says Frédérick Alary. “We talk about everything and we listen to each other, but always there is a lot of laughter.”
The Alary family has been doing this sort of thing for decades and everyone understands that some of the ideas first tossed out during these light-hearted discussions will – sooner or later – be adopted and, once again, Ferme Raymond Alary et Fils will undergo profound change. A quarter of a century ago, they joked about going organic. Then they did it. There were more smiles and banter when the idea of making cheese first came up. Then they did it. Today, winemaking, meat processing, and agri-tourism are getting the same treatment – and if one of those ideas is not adopted, something else will be.
“When I was at university, our teacher always told us, ‘When you go back to the farm, don’t be shy about pushing your father and family to try new things,’” says Frédérick, 32.
“I would tell my teacher, On our farm, it’s the opposite. Sometimes we have to hold them back because they want to go too fast and to try too many new things.’”
The Alary family has been farming in Sainte-Sophie-des-Laurentides area (about 40 kilometres northwest of Montréal) since 1922 but Frédérick says the entrepreurial spirit stems from his grandfather Raymond, who took over the operation in 1950. Raymond started a dairy operation, quickly moving into purebred Holsteins. Later, he would sell whole milk locally and start a school bus company, now run by one of Frédérick’s uncles.
“My grandfather had six children and five of them have, or had, their own business,” says Frédérick. “My grandfather was a farmer but he was also a businessman. He always had ideas – I won’t say crazy ideas, but he was always willing to consider an idea. This is something that our grandfather has given to us.”