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Bleuetière Marland: The ideas at the heart of their diversification

April 3, 2023

Annie Marcoux describes herself as a "farm-to-maple restauranteur." It's a job title that speaks to the diversification she's led since joining her family farm in 2016 and taking it in an agrotourism direction. Because despite its name, Bleuetière Marland is much more than blueberries.

This family farm has changed its focus several times throughout its history. Annie's parents starting out raising animals for veal and beef. They gradually added blueberry farming as a way to diversify their income stream. Then came the strawberries, haskaps, raspberries, sweet corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, and field and greenhouse vegetables still grown today. 

Growing their knowledge and experience

When Annie started studying science and humanities at Cégep de Sainte-Foy, she wasn't planning on taking over the farm. But after travelling around Australia, New Zealand and Europe to expand her horizons and completing a bachelor of business administration at Université Laval, she came back home. That's when it struck her that her new skills and ideas could be the missing piece of the puzzle for growing the family business.

Seizing strategic opportunities: Turning to agrotourism

For her first major project, Annie wanted to bolster Bleuetière Marland's resilience against fickle weather and natural disasters—phenomena exacerbated by climate change.

"Agrotourism is a way for us to offer a wider range of services that provides a level of financial stability. Weather does influence how busy we are, but it's nowhere near as consequential as, say, a hailstorm is on a harvest."

– Annie Marcoux, Entrepreneur, Bleuetière Marland

And 2 spring frosts in less than 3 years have been the proof: those seasons would have been significantly tougher if the business were entirely devoted to growing blueberries. 

Innovate, 1 project at a time

They started out by building an agrotourist structure to have a functional and attractive place to promote pick-your-own and sales. Then came an ice cream stand featuring berries and homemade maple syrup. After Annie met her partner Stéphane, a Neapolitan pizza expert, the two decided to set up a gourmet food bar.

"The Neapolitan pizza bar was exactly what we needed to attract visitors to the farm all day long. Now, with the pick-your-own, the ice cream stand, and the option to dine onsite, we've become a standalone destination that's worth the trip."

– Annie Marcoux, Entrepreneur, Bleuetière Marland

Whatever Bleuetière Marland doesn't produce themselves they source from local vendors. So they serve beer from Frampton Brasse and Microbrasserie de Bellechasse. And the meat in the kitchen comes from places like Ferme Rustique and Le Porc de Beaurivage. 

Bring your vision to life based on what interests you

The mini-farm, the playgrounds, the terrasse overlooking the fields, and a picnic area make for a lot of projects! This agrotourism destination built itself up organically, one piece at a time, based on solid business plans prepared with help from La Financière agricole du Québec to get Desjardins financing.

The biggest challenge is finding the time, since days on the farm are already packed. The family worked on their plans during the winter season and started construction in the spring, using each person's strengths and talents.

"Diversifying to offer more services means thinking about more than just growing your bottom line. It takes a lot of time and effort so you've got to look for that extra element that sparks your interest and relates back to agriculture."

– Annie Marcoux, Entrepreneur, Bleuetière Marland

 

Annie Marcoux doesn't have some highly detailed 5-year plan tucked away in her desk drawer. She sees her family business's growth more as a continuous improvement project. Monitoring trends, bringing new ideas to life, and staying attractive: that's all it'll take for the story of Bleuetière Marland to continue for years to come.

Tip

Planning your growth strategy 

Businesses in all sectors have their sights set on growth. If you want to hit your target and provide full, diverse and high-quality service to your clients, you need to be able to manage the way your business grows. 

To anticipate risk, build a long-term vision, and face any storm, feel free to talk to your advisor about your growth plans.