Things are buzzing at Ferme-Neuve! Miels d’Anicet, a family business that has become a leader in the beekeeping community, showcases its rich territory and continues to grow.
Miels d’Anicet’s tourist offer has expanded in recent years along with its range of products. Its attractive boutique features seasonal honeys, as well as a range of beeswax-based body care products. Honey also features in the food served up at the charming Pollens & Nectars canteen. Since honey has antioxidant properties and benefits, it is incorporated into most dishes on the menu, in the rillettes, salads, burgers and pizzas. “Honey is more exciting than sugar,” said co-owner Anne-Virginie Schmidt. “It has a whole range of flavours. Even chefs didn’t realize all that honey has to offer until about 15 years ago. It can also be used in gourmet products like jams and spice breads.”
To get to Ferme-Neuve, located in what used to be lumberjack country, follow Highway 309 from Mont-Laurier. The Haute-Laurentides region, with its lakes, rivers, mountains and forests, has a rugged charm to it. The Desrochers family decided to settle in the area amidst this raw beauty in 1978, to begin their apiary venture. The bees have since multiplied and become the guardians of the Miels d’Anicet domain, nestled in this northern environment between river and mountain. The Desrochers’ son, Anicet, who grew up amidst the bee hives and took the colony over from his father, has become a veritable bee expert. He and his wife Anne-Virginie have, together, helped develop honey-making in Québec.
“We have a beautiful property. Our bees are healthy and thriving,” noted co-owner Anne-Virginie. When people talk about agriculture, they often refer to the importance of the land, but with beekeeping, things are even more firmly rooted because of the unique habitat the bees create through their work. “Honey is the best reflection of a region,” explained Anne-Virginie. Bees forage three kilometres around their hive. They collect nectar from a multitude of blooms, in trees, wildflowers and fields. So, honey from here doesn’t taste like honey from Gaspésie, which in turn tastes different than honey from Abitibi. We thought, “Wow! People need to taste the flavours specific to the Hautes-Laurentides region.”
The pleasure of welcoming visitors
Not only is the Miels d’Anicet site fascinating, it’s welcoming and lively. Set on an immense property on the peaceful Rang 2 de Gravel country road with views of the surrounding valleys and Montagne du Diable, are dozens of beehives containing thousands of bees busy at work. There’s a constant buzzing all around you, but it’s perfectly safe and the setting is truly enchanting.
Anne-Virginie and Anicet are pros when it comes to welcoming visitors, it’s all quite magical! The buildings, including the boutique with its attractive products and the gourmet canteen, are modern and bright. “Our best gift is meeting the people who buy our products,” said Anne-Virginie. “We want people to come and visit us at Ferme-Neuve, and we want to spend time with them so they can understand what we do here, and taste our honeys. These days, Québec’s artisans sell more than just a product. Behind every jar of honey is our entrepreneurial spirit, our soul and a smile.” And visitors to Miels d’Anicet give back through their growing curiosity and their desire to learn about the work methods and to taste this unique honey.
Anicet and Anne-Virginie have succeeded in influencing honey-making in Québec and, at the same time, they’ve managed to achieve international visibility for their business. They began with a shared life project, taking on different but complementary roles. “Anicet wanted to breed queen bees and develop a bee adapted to the Québec environment, meaning a more resilient bee compared to an Italian bee, for instance. His dream is really to be a bee entomologist, and get into the genetics. As for me, I market the honey and promote honey-making. My role focuses on honey education, while his revolves around the protection of bees, on a global scale because we travel internationally a lot.” Their current task is to make bees more resilient to the many challenges facing agriculture these days.
Before leaving Miels d’Anicet, be sure to taste the Desrochers D meads—including the well-known Beez line—also produced on site since 2008 by Naline Dupuis-Desrochers, Anicet’s sister, and her husband Géraud Bonnet. These strong partnerships bear witness to the fact that this honey house remains first and foremost a family business… one that continues to grow and impress, through its commitment to the development of bees, to showcasing the region, and to creating products that honour the work of these fascinating insects.
By Valérie Thérien and photos Simon Jodoin