What does the term “modern agriculture” mean to you? Do you envision a huge factory farm, churning out livestock at staggering rates, or do you see the future of farming as more of a return to the pioneer days?
While it’s true that both these trends exist in the agricultural world – mega-farming equals mega profits all while consumers are becoming more environmentally and morally conscious – a happy medium does exist.
Ferme Sanglier des Bois in Saint-Augustin-De-Desmaures, Québec is just that: a relatively small wild boar farming operation that cares just as much about the quality of the meat it produces as it does about the happiness of the animals. In fact, owners Nathalie and Charles believe that you can’t have one without the other.
By combining entirely natural farming practices and some of the most cutting-edge genetic traceability systems in the niche boar farming industry, Ferme Sanglier des Bois is breaking the agricultural mold in more ways than one.
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Unlike many farm operations, Ferme Sanglier des Bois was not an inherited business. Rather, it started as a student project led by both Nathalie Laroche and Charles Fortier, now husband and wife with four young children.
In the spring of 2000, the couple were students of the University of Laval’s engineering program.
As part of the institution’s SAAC (Agriculture, Food and Consumption Week), the students were tasked with creating a unique agricultural pilot project that would be showcased to attendees.
Going above and beyond, Nathalie and Charles raised a group of five wild boars on land that Nathalie’s grandparents graciously offered in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaure, Quebec. The project resulted in five delicious méchouis (spit-roasted boars) and served as a launch pad for what would become a permanent side business.
Today, Nathalie and Charles run Ferme Sanglier des Bois while both pursuing demanding engineering careers – making efficiency a necessity and not an option.
All their eggs in one basket
Arguably, one of the reasons for Ferme Sanglier des Bois’ success has been their hyper-focus on producing a singular premium product. The business is proof that deep diving into a particular niche field can yield just as good, if not better results than diversifying.
Not only are the animals at Ferme Sanglier des Bois raised in a free-range environment from two months of age, but they are also the product of rigorous genetic testing done at the University of Guelph to ensure a pure lineage.
These genetic tests ensure that the animal’s DNA contains 36 chromosomes instead of 38.
A boar with 38 chromosomes indicates that the animal has been crossed with a regular pig.
Thanks to this due diligence, consumers enjoy robust-tasting cuts of 100% boar meat — the only “wild game certified” boar meat produced in the province of Quebec.
While the attention to detail may seem over the top, Nathalie strongly believes that Ferme Sanglier des Bois’ knowledge and use of technology is one of its biggest strengths.
“We were trained as engineers,” she says. “Therefore, it was easy for us to implement traceability systems, registers and statistical tracking in our operations. It brings a professional aspect to our farm.”
This is all the more important in the wild game meat industry, as consumers are paying a premium price for products and expect quality and taste that far exceeds what they can find through traditional channels, such as grocery stores.
“It’s very rare in Quebec to deal directly with the farm that is raising the animals … even the regular consumers are interested in learning about where the products come from.”
Turning lemons into lemonade (or boar into boar chops, if you will)
Ferme Sanglier des Bois is a shining example of a business that quickly and effectively pivoted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only did they create an online store within weeks, but they also completely shifted their client base from businesses to individual consumers.
When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, Nathalie and Charles were left in a difficult predicament: the majority of their boar products had been selling to restaurants shuttered by the lockdown orders. They were forced to pivot their business online in order to serve individual consumers.
Like countless agricultural operations, Ferme Sanglier des Bois did not have an online presence whatsoever, as there was no need for a website when selling to wholesalers.
Putting Ferme Sanglier des Bois online
Nathalie and Charles agreed that it was time to reconnect with the consumer in a big way. With high motivation and a do-it-yourself attitude, the pair turned to the GoDaddy Website Builder in order to build an online ordering platform with both curbside pick-up and delivery options.
Although neither engineer had much web design experience, they navigated GoDaddy’s easy-to-use platform and took advantage of the online help desk when needed.
“The pandemic was really a big change,” says Nathalie. “Once we integrated the content and completed the website, it was all very easy … following the launch, we ran television commercials and advertising on social media.”
With their website active and the cook-at-home trend booming, Nathalie and Charles immediately captured the attention of local customers. The high demand for their products quickly became apparent, and the pivot to eCommerce permanent.
“At this time, we’re the only farm that sells its products 100% online on our GoDaddy site,” says Nathalie. The online store now carries a diverse inventory ranging from ground boar meat to an entire butchered “boar-in-a-box,” which would be impossible to find in a traditional grocery store.
A new lease on business
As for the future, Nathalie and Charles plan to stay on their newfound trajectory. And while Ferme Sanglier des Bois may continue to serve local restaurants, the relationships formed with direct consumers during the pandemic have become an integral – and permanent – part of the business.
“Our goal is to further improve our way of doing things,” confirms Nathalie. “We want to continue ensuring our animals’ well-being, all while helping more people discover boar meat.”
To learn more about Ferme Sanglier des Bois or to shop their products, visit www.sanglierdesbois.ca/boutique