From the classroom to the farm

Posted on Thursday, June 8, 2017

Just hours before he walked across the stage to accept his Farm Management Technology Diploma on June 2, Félix Bertrand was working one of the family farms.

By Neale McDevitt

Every graduating student has their own way of getting ready the day of their Convocation. Some get haircuts, others go for a latté with friends and family or buy a new pair of shoes for the event. You can be pretty sure that very few do what Félix Bertrand did the morning of his Convocation ceremony on June 2. “I was at home helping my father with the pigs,” he says.

Of course, this isn’t that out of the ordinary. Bertrand is an award-winning graduate in the Farm Management and Technology (FMT) Diploma program who, following in his brother and sister’s footsteps, is hoping to use what he has learned in the classroom and apply it to the family agribusiness.

The Bertrand family runs a very successful agribusiness. This includes several types of swine production (with more than 200,000 pigs), some laying hen production, cash cropping and running their three feed mills in which they produce their own animal feed. “We have something to do every day,” says Bertrand.

Bertrand isn’t afraid of hard work, in any domain. One of the primary comprehensive assessment tools for the FMT Diploma is a five-year-business plan project, referred to as the Farm Project. Bertrand’s first-place finish in this year’s business plan project gave him family bragging rights. Both older brother Rémi, who graduated from the FMT program in 2013, and older sister Sandrine, who graduated from FMT in 2013, finished second with their respective business plans.

“The three of us believe in doing our best in whatever we do and we try to follow that every day,” says Bertrand of he and his siblings. “We try to do things the right way.”

While he had been concentrating on his studies in recent months, now that school is out, Félix is a different kind of busy. Days begin early, making sure the machinery is ready to roll and everything is in place for before hitting the fields before 7 a.m. This time of year means getting fields ready for cash crops. “I spend a lot of time spreading manure,” says Bertrand.

“The spring is stressful because it is a rush to plant. And the fall is stressful because we are rushing to harvest,” says Bertrand. Does that make the months in between more relaxed? Bertrand laughs. “Maybe less stress, but just as busy,” he says. “We have to take care of the animals and keep up with the maintenance of our machines.”

Bertrand says that, while not all of the FMT material was applicable to raising swine – which he will take care of fulltime now that he has graduated – many of the lessons he learned were invaluable. Among the two most important takeaways – improving his English and approaching farming as an entrepreneur and a businessman.

“You can’t cut corners and expect to be successful,” he says “You have to pay attention to the details.”

That attention to detail is important in farming, an industry, as Bertrand points out, “that is moving more toward a lower profit margin. Thinner margins of profit put pressure on better performance,” says Bertrand. “Paying attention to the details is a key to profitability.”

 

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