Montreal

Quebec homesteader is growing fruit, vegetables and a large online following

Mallorie Fournier and her family grow, harvest, and preserve most of the vegetables they need for the entire year, in addition to raising animals and harvesting fruit trees in their orchard in the Bellechasse region of Quebec.

Mallorie Fournier's YouTube channel has nearly 11,000 subscribers, who watch her tips and tricks

Mallorie Fournier, along with the help of her husband and two daughters, and three-year-old dog Darwin, run a nearly-self-sufficient homestead in the Bellechasse region. (Julia Page/CBC)

When Mallorie Fournier bought a nearly 200-year-old house and moved to St-Paul-de-Montminy with her husband and two daughters, she never expected that just four years later she'd have an online following of more than 10,000 people. 

Fournier operates a full-time homestead at her old, rundown home in the Bellechasse region about 100 kilometres east of Quebec City, and aims to be entirely self-sufficient in the next few years. 

Right now, she and her family grow, harvest, and preserve most of the vegetables they need for the entire year, in addition to raising animals and harvesting fruit from their orchard.

Fournier also shares videos of the evolution of the farm, as well as tips and tricks for how to run a homestead, on her YouTube channel Quebec Homestead.

"We got all this done in four years, so we're pretty proud of it," Fournier said.

She says when they first bought the 80-hectare property, it was all grass and no garden, so she put a tarp down and waited a full year before building her mounds. Now she grows more than 40 varieties of vegetables in her large garden. 

Mallorie Fournier and her family grow, harvest, and preserve most of the vegetables they need for the entire year in the large garden they built from scratch. (Julia Page/CBC)

She also has an orchard, a maple sugar bush, birds for meat, four chickens for eggs, horses, and a big three-year-old dog named Darwin. 

Fournier says her husband was raised about a half hour away, so he already knew the region, and they weren't picky; they just wanted to be on a large property that wouldn't cost too much.

"When we came upon the listing for this place, it was winter time. I think it was –30 C and it was so windy and cold," she said.

"We didn't even go into the house, just looking at the view from the side of the road, we were like 'oh no, what did we do? Why did we come here?' and we already knew we were going to buy it, no matter how much work was going to be put into the house."

Working toward self-sufficiency in a harsh climate

With a stunning view of the Appalachian Mountains on the horizon, and nestled atop a mountain themselves, Fournier and her family have the luxury of no neighbours and plenty of space to learn and grow. 

The homesteader said her farm is in a Zone 3 for agriculture, which means a very challenging climate where temperatures can drop to –39 C during the winter, and sometimes even lower with the wind atop the mountain. 

"It's just really challenging for us to grow tomatoes and peppers and hot-climate vegetables," Fournier said. 

Fournier and her husband — a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who suffers from PTSD and was discharged after an injury — built all the pastures and fencing at the farm, which hadn't been maintained for decades. 

"There's a lot of stuff to do and it keeps him active during his early forced retirement," Fournier said. "He's been staying sane this way."

The first thing they did when they arrived was plant about 50 fruit trees, because they take so long to grow. 

"To me a homestead is pretty much trying to reuse old methods," Fournier said, explaining that most techniques predate the mass production and monoculture that became the norm after the Second World War. 

"We're like the ultimate preppers, I guess you could say," she joked. 

She said it's nearly impossible to be fully self-sufficient in the first few years, but they're getting there.

Right now, she grows a year's worth of broccoli, tomatoes, garlic, leeks, potatoes and carrots, as well as other produce to sustain her family of four. 

"I grow more than 400 pounds (180 kilograms) of potatoes every year," she said. 

The house also came with a root cellar because homesteading is how the residents would have lived when the place was built.

"They had to have all the installations in the house, which is really cool. I really like it," Fournier said. 

Finding community online 

Fournier started sharing her homesteading tips and tricks on YouTube about two years ago, and has since not only amassed nearly 11,000 followers, but also become part of the online homesteading community. 

"It was a way for me to share with [my friends and family], and then all of a sudden I meet this huge community of people that's following me, and we send each other stuff in the mail," she said. "It's really cool to have all these like-minded people in one community."

She said the channel has been especially helpful to feel connected during the pandemic. 

"It started out like that, but it ended up being so much more," she said.

WATCH | Mallorie Fournier demonstrates how to grow potatoes:

Fournier regularly hosts live streams, posts vlogs (video blog) and creates videos such as Are they Rooting yet? Update on my Wild Permaculture orchard cuttings, Pruning and fertilizing onion starts and Simply Making Dandelion Wine while singing and dancing.

Her most recent video details how to keep meat for two years, because she says she hopes to take a break from raising chickens for meat next year so she can focus on other projects. 

"It's just hard to work on the farm, create good content, and raise two kids," she said. "I'm trying to balance it all, still."

Fournier says the next step is to build a big greenhouse annex next to the house next year.

Operating a full-time homestead, and trying to be almost entirely self-sufficient, takes a lot of work- but it's a lifestyle that Mallorie Fournier and her family wouldn't trade for anything. The CBC's Julia Page stopped by the family home built on a 200 acre farm. 14:20

With reporting by Julia Page

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