CITRUS FRUIT VANGUARD
O’Citrus, a branch of Ferme d’Auteuil, a fruit and vegetable farm.
Exotic citrus fruits: yuzu, sudachi, kumquat, calamondin, Buddha’s hand, kaffir lime.
1823! That’s right, 1823! Vaillancourt father and daughter are the sixth and seventh generations to work their farm, making them one of Quebec’s oldest farming families. Citrus farming happened somewhat by chance for dad Yves a decade ago, for the pleasure of family and friends, and then turned into a business project more recently, driven by Vyckie.
As you might imagine, Yves Vaillancourt learned his trade on the land of his ancestors. Vyckie holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a master’s in entrepreneurship. O’Citrus is her study project.
Yves, a real gourmet and great cook, bought his first yuzu tree out of curiosity, following the advice of a friend. Ten or so trees of various varieties later, exotic citrus has become a family passion. During her studies in entrepreneurship, Vyckie noted that there is a serious demand for this type of product. After meeting several chefs and other stakeholders in the industry, the woman who had once chosen not to work on the farm decided to quit her job and devote herself to developing the “citrus” branch, and O’Citrus was born.
First challenge: patience! You have to know that it takes five years before you can harvest fruit from the tree. As Vyckie tells us, “One winter, the heating in the greenhouse broke down for a whole night. The trees lost all their leaves. We thought they were dead, that it was over. A year later, the trees grew back their leaves and fruit. We saw it as a sign.”
Second challenge: energy costs. Between the cold snaps and short periods of sunshine in winter, you have to compensate using artificial light and be doubly smart with heating, for sure, but you must also keep the heat inside the greenhouse, to reduce energy losses. Energy becomes as important as tending to the trees. Take note, any do-it-yourselfers/inventors with brilliant ideas!
The other challenge: a lack of expertise in our province in this type of farming. Vyckie had to go to the south of Portugal to visit the gardens of Jean Paul Brigand. As schooling goes, it was still a pleasant experience to learn about pruning the trees, preventing disease, as well as taking proper care of the blossoms and fruits.
The enthusiasm on the part of chefs and restaurant owners, it’s “not only for the fruit itself, but also the idea of growing it here in Quebec. More and more, we care about the origin of products, the ecological footprint, and we want the freshest food,” says Vyckie.
In this sense, brewers and distillers are also interested in O’Citrus, so that they can create entirely local products. To label something a “product of Quebec,” all the ingredients must come from here. In an ideal world and an era of zero waste, the juice would go to chefs and bartenders, and the zest would go to various players in the world of agribusiness… To be continued!
While the first tree was bought out of curiosity, other varieties followed based on recipe books she read or trends on the menus of restaurants visited by this family of food lovers. Today, talking with their local partners and Jean Paul Brigand, who shares the wishes and requests of the star European chefs he works with, helps inspire future acquisitions.
Be the go-to people for citrus fruit, pioneers of an age of innovation. Develop a market niche for rare or new fruits and vegetables, giving new life to varieties that are old or have disappeared altogether. “I want to work with all the different stakeholders in this exciting movement that is local farming. When I’m alone in my greenhouse, I don’t know what people will want, but with many people working together, we can have outstanding success stories.”
“What was really remarkable is our production last year!” Following her training in southern Portugal, the attention she gave to the trees and blossoms have been fruitful indeed! 2017 was the first real year for marketing products from O’Citrus.
ENFANT TERRIBLE SINCE 2017
O’Citrus Facebook: www.facebook.com/OCitrus
O’Citrus Instagram: www.instagram.com/ocitrusqc
Ferme d’Auteuil Website: www.fermedauteuil.com
Ferme d’Auteuil Facebook: www.facebook.com/fermevaillancourt
Each month, we feature one of our suppliers, a local producer with whom we are proud and happy to work with.
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