From the XVIIth century French regime until the 1950s, agriculture in Charlevoix
was chiefly one of subsistence, but it was gradually modernized over time. Prevailing
natural conditions however, paired with the region’s geographic location rendered
agriculture rather marginal as compared with the rest of the province. Here climatic
and geographical conditions combined with the effects of globalization confer a
vulnerability to farming. In fact, agricultural activities have been on the decrease
for a number of years. Dairy farming is clearly receding and is even threatened
with disappearing entirely - this after once having been the leading agricultural
activity in Charlevoix.
As far back as 1995, growers, producers and master chefs created a partnership and
founded La Table agro-touristique de Charlevoix, with the goal of establishing a
synergy and devising new production methods. The group would in fact lay the groundwork
for a new type of regional farming.
Biogeographic and bioclimatic conditions associated with Charlevoix are typical
of Nordic regions and high plateaux. Altitudes oscillate between 300 and 500 m on
the plateaux, while in the valleys they are inferior to 100 m. On the plateaux,
snow covers the land six to seven months a year. Precipitations are abundant and
frost is possible from the end of August until the end of May. These conditions
remain the weak link in today’s world of high-productivity. Weakness nevertheless
can sometimes be transformed into a major strength. Charlevoix’s terroir is geographically
well defined because of the presence of a meteorite crater. As a result, it distinguishes
itself significantly from Quebec’s other regions. Charlevoix therefore is blessed
with most everything required for establishing a form of agriculture that is specific
to its territory. In fact, its terroir has already been granted World Biosphere
Reserve status by UNESCO.
These unique particularities are ideal for creating a very distinct type of dairy
production. This would imply deep changes to current production methods, as well
as cattle husbandry of a breed that is closely tied to the origins of this terroir.
The Canadienne bovine breed has historical ties with Charlevoix’s terroir, and constitutes
an invaluable resource for producing very specific, unique milk. In an article by
Dr. J. A. Couture in the 1889 Journal of Agriculture, the author wrote: “They [Canadienne
cows] are found in abundance in the county of Charlevoix, where there is nothing
but that. Here one can purchase a cow blindfolded and be certain it is a purebred
Canadienne.” The Canadienne cattle breed is well adapted to enhance Charlevoix’s
terroir. This new way of doing things spotlights the landscape, which remains a
priority here, in one of the top tourist destinations.