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This is ag: From Canadian Forces to first-time farmer

Yannick Laplante wants to start his own small farm with his wife near Antigonish after retiring as a naval officer.
Yannick Laplante wants to start his own small farm with his wife near Antigonish after retiring as a naval officer. - Contributed

By Emma Geldart

After 21 years of serving in the Canadian Forces, Yannick Laplante decided to embrace a challenge he has always dreamed of: operating his own farm.

Growing up in a suburb of Montreal, Laplante had very little experience with farming. Despite his inexperience, Laplante, who it set to graduate Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in 2020 with a diploma in plant science, is looking to begin operation of his own organic farm.

“I have never gardened in my spare time. Let’s just say that I like to learn new skills and challenge myself,” he said.

Laplante is striving towards starting a market garden in his Acadian village of Pomquet, outside of Antigonish. He aims to produce organic vegetables and sell his produce around the Antigonish area.

“I want to start a farm in Pomquet to help my community access local, organic food,” he said.

His retirement from the Canadian Forces encouraged him to pursue his interest at Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture. The plant science diploma program was exactly what he was looking for.

It wasn’t only academics that helped Laplante refine his farm business idea and plan. He was introduced to Cultiv8 when visiting the campus before he began his studies. The entrepreneurial program with resources available to students caught his attention.

Cultiv8 is a space on Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus where students can creatively discover and test ideas, with or without a business goal in mind. Cultiv8 offers access to inspirational tours to local agriculture and value-added agribusinesses, customized workshops and programs, and collaborative boot camp experiences with students from across Nova Scotia.

He participated in Cultiv8’s Discover program which provides students with opportunities to explore the entrepreneurial mindset, creative problem solving and innovation. Through Discover, students learn about the basics of Human Centred Design, an approach to find creative solutions to a problem while keeping the human aspect in mind at all times.

Discover essentially teaches students a step-by-step process to approach a problem and develop a product or service to resolve it. It consists of seven modular units followed by a culmination design challenge. The modules focus on skills which will familiarize students with competencies deemed necessary to better understand, ideate and communicate.

After identifying problems and solutions in the Discover program, Laplante then participated in Validate. Through the Validate program, he used tools he learned through Discover to apply them to the concept of his future farm.

“Going through the process again solidifies my knowledge and ensures that I start my business on the right foot. During Validate, we also added on more business strategies that further solidified my business plan.”

Yannick attributes the success of his farm start up to the resources and tools available to him through Cultiv8. He was ecstatic to learn of a $100,000 donation to Cultiv8’s Discover program from Rabobank, a premier global food and agribusiness bank servicing the food, agribusiness and beverage industry, providing sector expertise, strategic counsel and tailored financial solutions to clients across the entire food value chain.

“Having more money for Cultib8 means that there could be more opportunities for students to network with other students and be exposed to many different ways of thinking, an essential aspect of business,” Laplante says.

While Laplante aims to begin his business venture in the next couple of years, he hopes to help future students from his own experience.

“I would like to help out other students starting their own farms or business by sharing my experience with Human Centred Design and other challenges that I will face.”

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