They are not the biggest dairy operation in the country, but Philippe Laurendeau and Kristina Roarke from Ferme L’Authentic near Warwick, Quebec have accomplished much in eight short years, going from city life to milking a high producing 75-head dairy herd.
Their hard work and success over less than a decade, earned them recognition earlier this year as Quebec regional finalists in the Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers competition.
Farming was always a lifelong dream for Philippe. He claims as a kid when asked about what he wanted to be when he grew up he probably answered a few hundred times that he wanted to be a farmer.
Even though Philippe was not raised on farm, when he was 10 his dad arranged for him to spend a day on a dairy farm in hopes that the desire to be a dairy farmer would end. By 12 he was milking cows after school, on holidays and in the summer.
Always a hard worker, Philippe went on to earn a Natural Science degree at the University of Sherbrooke. And it was at one stage of his early career when he established a lawn mowing business, that it instilled in him the desire to be his own boss. He went back to school to obtain his business admin. degree. Philippe had met Kristina who had her degree in nursing.
In 2010, Philippe convinced Kristina to move from their home in Orford to the new region of Warwick, a community on the south side of the St. Lawrence River, about half way between Montreal and Quebec City. That is where L’Authentic Farm began with 55 milk cows on rented property.
His goal at the time was to create a viable business with healthy animals while maintaining a quality of life for the family which now included their children Juliette (six), Émile (four) and Charles (two).
In the beginning Philippe boarded cows and rented quota to keep capital costs down. He has faced start up issues such as an outbreak of IBR (lost 22 cows his first year), debt and shortage of labour but continued to strive for efficient profitable production while enjoying farm life. He also had to take on some major upgrades to dairy barn facilities.
Along with always looking to improve dairy herd genetics, a number of other improvements have been made to increase milk production including the introduction of an automatic Total Mixed Ration feeder in 2011 and robotic feeder in 2013. He developed a minimum tillage system and began using intercrops, and cereal rotations which soon provided 100 per cent of the herd’s forage needs. Providing custom farming services also helped to reduce machinery expenses.
In 2014 Philippe purchased land in hopes of being self-sufficient in forage. Working with consultants he began extensive management of the land that included installing drains, channels, berms and planting over 800 trees in windbreaks. An opportunity arose in 2018 and they purchased the land where L’Authentic Farm began eight years earlier. L’Authentic Farm now has a milking herd of 75 head with facilities for 110. Plans are in the works to add another 40 head to the herd.
Along with her work as an oncology clinical nurse, Kristina is also involved in their children’s daycare and both Philippe and Kristina volunteer with the local ski team. Philippe and Kristina want to share the farm life they enjoy with others. Their previous city life, their professional and social commitments make them natural ambassadors of agriculture.