We recently visited Les Serres Bio de l’Outaouais which is a certified organic greenhouse across the river from Ottawa in Buckingham sector of Gatineau, Quebec. Les Serres Bio is a non-profit cooperative and employs people with developmental disabilities as members to plant, harvest, and care for the crops in the greenhouse. Les Serres Bio is certified by Quebec Vrai and has been an organic greenhouse since it started operations 20 years ago. It is currently managed by Ketsia, an agronomist who is responsible for overseeing the operations at the greenhouse.
Ketsia greeted us in a small store at the front of the building where they sell some of their produce. There were bags of beans, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes for sale. The beans are particularly popular and customers come early in the morning just to buy them. In order to produce and pick all of the vegetables, Les Serres Bio relies on three staff and 25 members. The members are compensated for their work and also learn horticulture skills. One of the goals of the cooperative is for members to develop skills so that they can find employment in greenhouses.
From the storefront we were led into the greenhouses which are well-organized jungles of green plants speckled with bright red cherry tomatoes and peppers. There was a lot of hustle and bustle and we saw members picking tomatoes and tying up the plants. The rows of plants reached almost to the ceiling with beans, cucumbers, sweet peppers, multiple types of tomato, and eggplant. Around the outside of the greenhouses was an outdoor space with a compost pile and Ketsia told us about her plans to plant herbs in this area.
Ketsia was very animated while talking to us about Les Serres Bio de l’Outaouais. She described challenges of growing plants in a greenhouse such as managing pests. One important part of the yearly growing cycle is to end the season around December and clean, clean, clean! As an organic greenhouse, a thorough cleaning is needed to make sure that pests do not survive for the following season which begins early the next year. Another challenge is determining what crops to grow and what vegetables customers want to buy. Ketsia is a very positive person and up to the challenge of managing Les Serres Bio de l’Outaouais!
We ended our tour in one of the rooms where the vegetables are stored and picked up boxes of cucumbers and tomatoes for our customers to enjoy. It certainly seemed like a lot of patience and care went into growing them. Thank you to Ketsia and everyone at Les Serres Bio de l’Outaouais for your hard work!