Groupex et Passion Jardins welcome you to Ferme Guyon.

Founded in 2004 by André and Sébastien Dion, Ferme Guyon in Chambly is today a vast garden center, an educational farm, and a popular market focused on Quebec terroir products. Meeting with the president and CEO of a company that places interpersonal relationships at the center of all its initiatives.

“I think it was after my bachelor’s degree in accounting that my entrepreneurial spirit really emerged!” recalls Sébastien Dion, who studied at HEC Montréal, then continued his training at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton and in the popular brewery led by his father: Unibroue.

“I quickly realized that, much more than accounting, it was customer contact, marketing, and sales that fascinated me.”

Sébastien recounts that he was the general manager of the family business when Sleeman offered to buy it in 2004. “I was supposed to continue working there for 2 years, but I only stayed 2 months! Because my father and I were elsewhere: we wanted to create a garden center that did things differently.” Thus, André and Sébastien went to Europe to visit various types of garden centers and draw inspiration from them. “It was mainly focused on the customer experience, with themes and beautiful model gardens, so people would stay longer and have a good time.”

Back in Chambly, father and son set to work to start their project… which still had no name. “Since there was already a Dion garden center in Sainte-Thérèse, we had to find something else!” he jokes. “So, we decided to keep the name my father had created a long time ago when he bought the land: Ferme Guyon.” A building and greenhouses appeared, and the co-founders were ready to welcome their first customers.

Listening, Mutual Aid, and Personalization

In the early days of their new kind of garden center, André and Sébastien were constantly asked where the animals of their “farm” were. Given this enthusiasm, they gradually populated Ferme Guyon with chickens, cows, goats, etc. “Then, we quickly realized that people were curious: they asked us questions about the color of eggs, how to make milk or honey, for example. We thought it would be good to add an educational component,” says the CEO.

Thus, in 2011, the educational farm and butterfly house of Ferme Guyon were born; two activities very popular with school groups in the region. “I think it’s very important to be present on the ground and to listen to customers. Perhaps that’s my father’s greatest legacy,” he confides. “Let’s say that if we had stuck to our business plan, the Farm wouldn’t look anything like it does today! We’ve diversified a lot, and that gave us a good hand during the pandemic.”

The CEO of Ferme Guyon reflects on the major lessons he draws from the growth of his business:

“A business relationship is not just a negotiation. I think we need to be real partners, friends above all. My goal is to create a relationship. The same goes for our team; the atmosphere is familial.”

Sébastien Dion

It is with this in mind that he decided to join Groupex in 2021, and then the Passion Jardins banner in 2022: “Mutual aid is so important! At one point during the pandemic, I found myself in a tight spot and called Martin [Girouard, from Serres Girouard, a member of Groupex]. He agreed to help me before I even told him what I needed.” According to Sébastien, in an era where everything can be bought online, it is personalization and excellent service that allow businesses to stand out. You have to give people reasons to visit the premises and maintain a connection with them.

“I like the way Passion Jardins highlights the people behind each initiative. It aligns very well with our approach. Our farmer’s market has always been centered on people – who makes the bread, cheese, chocolate… We also focus a lot on local purchasing, for example, by participating in the Chambly en boîte project. So, it was really logical for us to join the coop!”

After investing several years in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Bassin de Chambly, Sébastien intends to continue giving back to his community in various ways. A long-time partner of the Société Alzheimer du Haut-Richelieu, his company plans to organize another monarch butterfly release fundraiser this fall. Recently, the business also invites small producers to rent a plot of land and take advantage of the visibility of its farmer’s market to sell their food.