Temporary quarters blossom into growing family operation

12 years ago

by Angie Wotton
    Ten years ago, Joseph and Clare Desrosiers, beginning their life after college, dreamed of settling in Quebec. They decided to put down temporary roots in Linneus while sorting through the red tape of immigration requirements. Those temporary roots have grown quite permanent in those 10 years, holding this small farm together. Their Linneus homestead includes Joseph and Clare and their six children, hens, meat birds, sheep, a steer, pony, vegetable garden, highbush blueberries, and a burgeoning apple orchard.
    Looking around their tidy farm, it looks as though it has always been like this. It actually came to be only through hard work, some trials and a very steep learning curve.
    The day I visited Sunnyside Farm, a couple of the children were playing in their tree house, another was hunting in the blueberry field to pick the very first ripe berries while Joseph and his 9-year-old son Emile talked with me as we sat on the grass in the shade of some trees.
    Joseph told me that they originally started the farm with laying hens as they didn’t require a big initial investment and they thought it would be “easy”. By 2006, after losing many, many hens to a family of foxes (who were caught only by setting up motion cameras) and taking a look at their bottom line, they realized that they were actually losing money. It was then they started thinking of raising meat birds.
    This time, they did a lot of research and developed a business plan so they knew what they were getting into before investment of finances and time. For economic reasons, they decided they would need to slaughter the birds themselves and they eventually built a state inspected slaughterhouse on their farm. As their market grew, they went from slaughtering 30 birds a month to 50.
    They have since grown out of that initial slaughterhouse and now have a new, larger facility to handle the current 100 birds every other week. In addition, people from the community seek the Desrosiers out for custom slaughtering. A new law recently passed requires a separate room for custom slaughtering and Joseph has provided for that in the new building. He expects it to be completed by this fall.
    When I asked about the children helping on the farm, Emile proudly told me that he helps with the safe aspects of slaughtering the birds such as putting them in the ice bath and rinsing them. He and his siblings also clean out bedding and manure where it is composted in a building designed specifically for that purpose. The family also helps weed the blueberry fields and mulch the plants with shavings.
    Joseph and Clare began planting highbush blueberries in 2004 and have since added to that initial planting each year with a few hundred more plants. They have a pick-your-own enterprise. They hope one day to include the apple orchard in the pick-your-own as well although Joseph noted that his kids love apples and eat so many that I think he is doubting they will have some left over for customers.
    Sunnyside Farm will have u-pick blueberries available beginning July 21. For u-pick updates and to find out much more about the farm, including placing an order for chickens, visit www.sunnysidefamilyfarm.com or call 532-7058.
    Editor’s note: Angie Wotton loves her work as district manager for the Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District. She also raises pastured pork and vegetables with her husband on their small West Berry Farm in Hammond. She can be reached 532-9407 or at angela.wotton@me.nacdnet.net.