Category: News

Les Serres Arundel, members of our eco-responsible cohort

As the Laurentian horticultural company Les Serres Arundel prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Guy Provost and Johanne Meilleur share the vision of sustainable development that they have maintained for several decades.

What motivated you to be part of Groupex’s first eco-responsible cohort?

Guy Provost: We have always focused on initiatives that limit waste. This was the case with the dairy farm we had, and it’s what we do today in Arundel and Mont-Tremblant: we reuse everything we can! When we learned about the cohort, we thought that it already aligned with our values and that it was important to continue on this path.

We learn a lot: it’s super useful to see how others operate! It gives us tips, new methods, and we are well supported. The challenge for a company like ours is finding the time. But it’s important, and we feel that our staff wants to get involved, to be better informed.

Johanne Meilleur, Owner

Long before the term ‘sustainable development’ became popular, Les Serres Arundel were already implementing several initiatives in this direction. Can you give us some examples?

Guy: Before there were as many recycling options as today, we were already doing our best to ensure our materials were recovered. All the plastic was saved for a company that would reclaim it: it wasn’t always easy, especially when they moved to the United States and we had to accumulate pots for 3-4 years before finding a new recycler! At the same time, we also tried to keep the plastic from the greenhouses a bit longer. When it’s time to change it, we split it into smaller pieces so that our customers who want to make small shelters for the garden or a homemade greenhouse can benefit from it. This allows the plastic to be reused instead of being sent for recycling.

Gardening Pot Recycling

As for the pots, they are now collected once a year. We only send the ones that are broken and unusable, as we continue to reuse them as long as possible. We also encourage our customers to return their containers: they are then sorted based on their condition. This year, we are implementing a better bin system, so that customers can more easily sort their used containers at our two garden centers.

Johanne Meilleur, Owner

Guy: Back then, we had to find a company to wash the plastic and another one to recycle it. Now, it’s the same company that does both, and it’s much more convenient!

What changes have you made in terms of heating?

Guy: After heating with wood and oil, we changed our system to heat solely with wood and biomass. The workload for wood was significant: the volume to be heated had greatly increased, and we were up to 3 cords per day. With biomass, it became automatic: mill residues, bark… Now, a part is purchased from sorting centers. It’s definitely advantageous not to use oil – and the smell is much better. When the price of oil increased significantly, our costs remained stable because we had already eliminated it.

Regarding water conservation, what techniques have you implemented to replace sprinkler irrigation?

Guy: We completely eliminated the sprinkler system because it used a lot of water and led to waste. Since then, we water some parts by hand, and we have flood tables to water the rest from below and recover the water after irrigation. We also installed a carousel to weigh the baskets and determine the amount of water needed based on weight. When it’s well-calibrated, we use exactly the necessary amount of water, which also avoids waste.

Johanne: We really see the difference. We had fewer greenhouses and there were water shortages. Now we have a larger area and we don’t run out.

Johanne: We really see the difference. We had fewer greenhouses and there were water shortages. Now we have a larger area and we don’t run out.

Guy: Now, as much as possible, we only use organic products and predatory insects. Spraying is really reserved for major cases, like when there’s a period of intense heat and we need to act quickly to avoid losing everything, which is quite rare. With vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers), we manage without pesticides, and the predators work well. With flowers, it’s sometimes more challenging.

Johanne: The cultivation method is different: we need to be very proactive and anticipate which insects to use before an infestation occurs. It changes our way of doing things. We must integrate them right from the start. If the pest insect has already taken over, that’s when we have no choice but to use products. Fortunately, this remains rare and is never widespread spraying.

What are the other ongoing initiatives at Serres Arundel to limit waste?

Johanne: We’ve been doing bulk sales… since the 70s! People come with their vehicle to buy exactly the amount of potting soil they need, which greatly reduces the use of plastic bags. For the past 2 years, we also use biodegradable cardboard fiber pots for vegetables and herbs.

Can you easily count on customer participation for this kind of approach?

Johanne: Generally, yes. Bulk soil and pot recycling really work well. When people know that the option is available, they do it. For several years, our customers come in the spring with all their pots. I don’t think there’s a problem with participation; the main work is in communication.

What communication initiatives do you use to inform consumers about eco-friendly practices?

Johanne: We now use social media. For example, we released a video explaining our biomass heating system, provide information on reusing pots… We also organize activities, like during squash season. It’s very popular with families! Our Facebook page is mainly used for that. There are also nearby schools that visit our greenhouses, and we teach them many things.

Would you like to highlight other projects you are currently developing?

Johanne: We try to promote biodiversity: it’s something we care about. We are surrounded by fields. There’s even a honey producer who has set up beehives! Some fields are in corn production, others for Christmas trees, but we leave others free for natural flowers to grow and attract pollinators. We will continue in this direction.

What are your next challenges to tackle?

Guy: We participated in a MAPAQ program, and the goal is to reduce the electricity cost of the greenhouses. These are grants for several things, like thermal curtains, machinery… This year, we’re renovating a section of our greenhouses that’s several years old and aiming for better energy efficiency.

Johanne: In an ideal world, we’d also like to have a completely electric vehicle fleet, but we’re not there yet. We can say that it’s our longer-term goal!

Arundel Greenhouses invites you to come and celebrate their 50th anniversary on September 10th, from 10 AM to 4 PM. On the agenda: guided tour, tractor ride, tasting, and more. For information:

Bédard & Blouin Inc- Happiness is at the farm”

“Gardening has an incredible positive impact on both physical and mental health. Our farm helps people reconnect with nature, and that’s very precious!” responds Sarah Bédard when asked about her decision to take over her parents’ business.

Well-established in Beauport, Ferme Bédard et Blouin is not only a sought-after workplace but also a vast ‘playground’ for horticulture enthusiasts and other nature lovers. The Groupex member company, which employs about fifty people during the peak season, has a nursery as well as several greenhouses and extensive urban agricultural lands.

Sarah Bédard grew up on the family farm before pursuing studies in social work and administration. It was in 2011 that she decided to get more officially involved in the management of Ferme Bédard et Blouin, alongside her brother Nicolas. Today, she primarily oversees communications, marketing, customer service, and human resources, while Nicolas is in charge of production. Their parents, Denis Bédard and Raymonde Blouin, remain very active within the company.

“I was lucky to be raised here, but it was only later that I understood the importance of contact with nature,” confides Sarah, who is also a mother of five children, in addition to being an administrator and treasurer of our cooperative. “I realized that my work absolutely had to have a social impact. I think that’s why I still work on the farm today.”

Gradually, the young entrepreneur began to think of various ways to give back, to share the richness of the environment she lives in. “My drive is really to take concrete actions that positively influence people’s lives. Our employees, our clients, the coop, and also the entire community around us,” she says, mentioning the sustainable development policy of her farm, which is part of Groupex’s eco-responsible cohort.

Sarah also cites several actions taken by Ferme Bédard et Blouin with schools, youth centers, or therapy centers: donating plants, creating a vegetable garden, establishing a garden, etc. “For us, it’s just a little help, but for people, it makes all the difference.”

The Green Thumbs

Among all the social outreach projects of her company, the one Sarah is most proud of is undoubtedly the Les Pouces verts daycare. “We had just acquired new land with an ancestral house, and we didn’t yet know what to do with it. I thought it would be the ideal spot for children to enjoy, spend time outdoors, and learn.”

Inspired by the Scandinavian model of “forest schools,” which advocates education through nature, Sarah set out to develop this ambitious project, which presented several challenges, including obtaining a permit. She approached the CPE La Courtepointe, which immediately joined the adventure, and in 2019, Les Pouces verts finally came into being.

“We had the perfect place for a daycare, and the CPE already had a permit and all the necessary expertise. It’s a win-win partnership: we set up the project together, we remain owners of the building and lend them the land, in addition to organizing several small activities for them, but they are the ones who manage the organization on a daily basis,” explains Sarah with great pride. The daycare currently welcomes about 75 children and employs about twenty educators. “The children play outside daily and come to see us at the farm. They learn a lot of things, like picking pumpkins in the fall, for example. This project makes me really happy, and I hope it continues for a very long time!”

Le Centre horticole Bastien celebrates its 20th anniversary

Since April 2002, Jessie Bogemans and Normand Bastien have been delighted to welcome gardening enthusiasts to the Centre horticole Bastien in Terrebonne, which has recently added a new market gardening component. This year, the Groupex member enterprise celebrates its 20th anniversary with special promotions, contests, and a Harvest Festival set to take place on September 24.

Long before the production and sale of plants (annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs), there was landscaping, Jessie Bogemans recounts, whose meeting with Normand Bastien dates back to their studies in ornamental horticulture at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire. “We both came from agricultural businesses – me from the South Shore, and him from the North Shore. We started in landscaping, but our goal was to have our own garden center, and there was really a need in Terrebonne. So, we launched, just the two of us!” recalls Jessie, who is today surrounded by a team of 25 employees.

A Family Story

In the early 2000s, the couple of horticulturists thus established their business on a plot of land already owned by the Bastien family for their sod farm. “There was nothing at all: it was a field of grass! We built everything ourselves,” Jessie continues proudly. It’s at this location, on Chemin Martin in Terrebonne, that their small enterprise grew into the vast current Bastien Horticultural Center, serving a clientele of individuals, municipalities, businesses, golf courses, and more.

Over the years, Jessie and Normand have expanded their nursery to include a wide variety of plant species, in addition to continuing to offer planning and landscaping services. “We wanted to create a place more rustic than commercial, where things aren’t arranged alphabetically,” she says. “A peaceful garden that stimulates our clients’ imagination.” And since last year, their son Maxime has been diversifying the offerings: the family business now also provides a range of greenhouse-grown vegetables, with heirloom tomatoes taking a prominent spot.

“As there are few fruit and vegetable kiosks in our area, there was great potential, but we didn’t have the time to take care of it! It was Maxime who, as part of his training in horticultural production at Lionel-Groulx College, created a business plan to develop this component, and we used it to obtain grants. Then, when everything stopped at the beginning of COVID, we took the opportunity to start growing our vegetables,” explains Jessie.

Maxime is currently continuing his studies in agricultural management at McGill University, while the Centre horticole Bastien continues its market gardening expansion, with an additional 160,000 square feet allocated to tomatoes, eggplants, melons, and herbs. It’s worth noting that his brother Xavier and sister Jeanne also work at the horticultural center: the former takes care of landscaping and infrastructure, while the latter provides customer service. The entire Bastien clan thus contributes to the family business’s activities.

The importance of helping each other

In addition to relying on two generations of Bastiens, the Horticultural Center is also part of other “families” that support it. There’s Groupex, of which it has been a member for 17 years: “Being part of a purchasing group is a great advantage for us, and the boost it gives us in administration and marketing is really a plus,” says Jessie about the cooperative. “Since the creation of our company, I like meeting other entrepreneurs to exchange or share tips. It’s really inspiring!”

The two entrepreneurs from Terrebonne are also involved in foundations and associations active in their community. For example, Jessie leads the ecoterritory component of the Société de développement et d’animation de Mascouche (SODAM), whose main mission is to develop new environmental initiatives.

Normand, for his part, is president of Jardin Moore, a public garden with educational and tourist purposes that everyone can enjoy since its reopening in 2015. The co-founder of the Horticultural Center also offers popular training sessions on horticulture, vegetable gardens, or permaculture; another beautiful way to pass on the knowledge and expertise acquired by the Bastiens over their two successful decades in business in the MRC des Moulins.”

Artis Paysage : combining arts and business

Since its inception in 2017, the landscaping company Artis Paysage has been continuously growing, both in Quebec and Morocco. Landscape manager and designer Krystel Bélisle shares her unique journey, her encounter with her business partner Kenza Khayatey, and her passion for entrepreneurship.

“Ever since I was young, when I start something, I really go all in!” exclaims Krystel Bélisle, who, before venturing into business at the age of 22, already had an extensive background as a professional ballet dancer.

In 2010, while studying kinesiology at the University of Ottawa, she was simultaneously holding several student jobs, one of which was in a nursery. That’s where she got introduced to the landscaping sector and developed a passion for management: “I was really passionate about dance, but also about sales and business. I redirected my studies to the Telfer School of Management, and then it was my work at the nursery that inspired me to start my own company: Garden Staging.”

Krystel’s first venture, which involved offering outdoor flips for property sales, was a resounding success for two years. “Garden Staging was a great way for me to utilize my creativity, the artistic side I had developed in dance, but also my managerial side,” the young entrepreneur believes.

From Stonehaven to Artis Paysage

Besides providing Krystel with an excellent learning opportunity, Garden Staging helped expand her contacts in the landscaping and real estate sectors. “I approached brokers to offer my services. This allowed me to acquire about fifteen new clients.” In 2016, a satisfied client then proposed her first major project: Stonehaven Le Manoir.

Located in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Stonehaven is a historic manor converted into a luxurious hotel, whose garden required a complete restoration. “It was a unique opportunity to showcase my design capabilities! The project was challenging because it required a lot of thought and extensive research on the building’s history,” she recalls.

To design this extraordinary garden (which also led to the creation of the hotel’s logo), the designer collaborated with three landscape architecture interns. One of them was Kenza Khayatey, her future business partner: “We had a really great synergy, and we complemented each other on every level! I felt that, like me, she valued the artistic aspect of the project. That made us want to start a company together: Artis Paysage.”

Strength in Unity

Since 2017, the two women have been managing a company that specializes in the design, realization, and maintenance of residential and commercial gardens. Krystel handles operations in Quebec (Montreal, Laurentians, and South Shore), while Kenza oversees those in Morocco, where she returned to settle during the pandemic. The Quebec team of about fifteen people also includes Romain Renoult, a new partner who ensures the quality of the Quebec projects.

These days, new projects at Artis Paysage are multiplying, so much so that this year the company will form a team based in the Laurentians due to high demand – in Tremblant, Saint-Sauveur, and Saint-Hippolyte, in particular. Krystel is even considering a short-term expansion to the United States.

“Without the support of networks like Groupex, we simply wouldn’t make it! Being part of a buying group increases our credibility with clients and greatly simplifies our purchasing process. The support from Groupex also saves us management time, which we can then devote to all the great projects we lead,” she estimates.

Krystel also cites other networks and partnerships contributing to her company’s growth, including APPQ, Rocvale, and MU Architecture. “Throughout my journey, I’ve interacted with many people who have allowed me to learn and grow as a landscape designer. I’ve also met several women entrepreneurs, including the president of Elles de la construction, who have greatly inspired me in my approach,” shares Krystel, who is very excited to unveil several new prestigious projects this year.

Text: Marie Mello

Photographs: Joëlle Poirier