By Richard Bell
There was a respectful HRM Planning public information hearing on November 18 at the Old School in Musquodoboit Harbour on Bianca and Pierre-Luc Sevigny’s request for a Development Agreement for “intensive agricultural use” on their newly acquired 7.58 plot (PID #41032590) on West Petpeswick Road in Musquodoboit Harbour. The hearing was largely a replay of an exchange that had been taking place on Facebook since word of the request first got out.
In an interview at their home on West Petpeswick, Pierre explained to the Cooperator how a couple from Montreal with no farming background came to pursue small-scale farming on West Petpeswick at their aptly named “The French Duck” farm.
“Our grandparents were on the farm,” Pierre said. “My grandfather raised rabbits in France, and my father’s uncle raises meat chickens. On Bianca’s side, she’s half Romanian, and her grandfather was a farmer in Romania.”
The couple fell in love with Nova Scotia and the Eastern Shore while visiting his father, who had moved here nine years ago. They met in Montreal when Pierre took a scuba-diving class Bianca was teaching. “I really wanted to pass the course, so I started dating the teacher,” he said with a laugh.
He has a degree in mining engineering from the Polytechnique Montréal, and for the last 6 years, has been working on a 14-days-on (12 hours a day), 14-days off schedule at a gold mine in Nunavut. They moved to Nova Scotia so that she could finish a degree in marine biology at Dalhousie in 2016. She served in the Navy reserves, where she’s finishing a military diving course.
“We had talked of a small farm as a retirement project,” Pierre said. “But then the land next door to ours suddenly came up for sale, and we decided we might as well go for it now.”
At the public meeting, several local small farmers were concerned about an inexperienced couple taking on the number of animals they were requesting to have under the Development Agreement, up to200 domestic fowl, and 55 livestock.
“We’re going to start small and build on our experience,” Pierre said. “We’re starting with just enough, sort of a homestead, so we can get to being self-sustaining on the meat side.”
As for experience, Pierre said they had discovered a number of organizations that were ready to help, mostly for free. “It’s kind of good timing for young people who want to get into farming. We did our homework before we started to see if what we wanted as a baseline was feasible.”
The small slaughterhouse was a late addition to their plan. “We’re not going to be processing red meat, so it can be a really small facility,” Pierre said. “We have 3 pigs right now, but we’re not keeping them over the winter. And we’ll be rotating where they are every year to prevent them from clearing the land.”
One of their goals was to help people understand where their chicken or rabbit comes from. “We will take people on tours by reservation,” he said, and “we’ll be reaching out to the local schools and 4-H.”
At the public meeting, several neighbors were openly enthusiastic about the project, and while there were some strong objections, many speakers expressed some level of support for the project, regardless of a variety of reservations. “Most of the concerns people raised were fair concerns,” Pierre said, “but I believe we can address all of those concerns. And the meeting was good for us to meet people we might not otherwise have met, and to benefit from their experience.”