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Dal AC student returns from the navy to start his own farm

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
BIBLE HILL, N.S. —

A small farm in Pomquet is a far cry from the decks of a navy ship or the war-torn streets of Kabul.
But former naval officer Yannick Laplante is reinventing himself as a farmer after 20 years in the military, with a little help from Dalhousie Agricultural Campus and Rabobank, who are training students like him in entrepreneurship while learning about crop plants.
“I’m feeling anxious to start this,” said Laplante, who is studying plant science. “They’re always saying there’s no money in farming and that’s pretty scary, but we have this movement of local food and market gardens in Quebec and I want to emulate it in Nova Scotia. That’s the utopian ideal.”
Laplante and other students are realizing their dreams through the Cultiv8 Sandbox Discover program at Dal AC, which offers students a chance to build their business and develop problem-solving skills.
Sponsored by Rabobank, which caters to agribusiness clients, Cultiv8 aims to help build sustainable small businesses.
For Laplante, now 37, going into farming is his retirement plan and a world away from his old life. 
Already, both he and his wife own about five acres of land in Pomquet, close to Antigonish, ready for the plough.
“I’m very, very excited to face the challenge of farming,” said Laplante.
Originally from Quebec, Laplante joined the Canadian Armed Forces in his teens and studied physics and space science at the Royal Military College of Canada, before joining the navy. He moved to Nova Scotia in 2003.
Laplante completed tours of Europe and the Persian Gulf and worked as a staff officer at the NATO mission in Kabul, finally leaving the forces earlier this year.
Enrolling at Dal AC just before he left under a civilian transition program, Laplante felt his naval service will serve him well as he builds up his farm.
“The military has a no-fail policy,” said Laplante. “Your life is on the line. You’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Cultiv8 manager Jason Grant said the program includes a design challenge, which tests students’ skills around communication, business ideas and collaboration.
“Students are sources of limitless energy with initiative; they advocate for justice, are socially responsible and environmentally conscious,” said Grant in a release. “They are nimble in their ability to pivot, and they are all different. At Cultiv8 we believe that the next generation of Nova Scotian students will change this province into a collaboration hub.”

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