Valérie Toupin-Dubé, leadership incarnate

Valérie Toupin-Dubé, le leadership incarné

Embodied leadership

15 years ago, city dwellers outnumbered rural dwellers. A first in the history of humanity. Is it any wonder then that over the last few decades the next generation of farmers has declined dramatically? For many people raised on tarmac, milk, carrots and cereals come from... the supermarket! In 2013, Valérie Toupin-Dubé, a student at the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences on the Macdonald campus, developed a unique project. With Mathieu Rouleau, his classmate and Dr. Caroline Begg, professor at McGill, École-O-Champ see the day. His mission ? Develop agri-environmental education activities for schoolchildren aged 5 to 16.

A few years earlier, Valérie had made a disturbing observation. Returning from a long stay in New Zealand where she worked on a vegetable farm, she had a breakdown (that's her expression) when she realized that the schools transmitted absolutely no knowledge of agriculture. That’s when the seed germinated in his head. “The young people had to understand what they eat and discover how the environment works. If the school is not an experimental laboratory in this field, how can we make our students aware that there is a possible future in agricultural production? » The young woman from Oka convinced herself so well that she then began a baccalaureate in agronomy.

From 2013 to 2015, during the first two years when Valérie and her two partners worked on their project, no less than 1,000 children had access to the day camps offered on the Macdonald Campus farm. This is without counting the workshops held in primary schools in Montérégie and Montreal and the participation in summer fairs where specialized activities are given.

Enabling the exploration of agro-environmental sciences, encouraging discovery, manipulation and experimentation in the fields of horticulture, dairy production and understanding of soils cannot be done with the wave of a wand. Magic.

For all of this to come true and for École-O-Champ to become a non-profit organization (NPO) in 2016, it will have needed the desire to develop its expertise and increase the scope of its educational mission. As founder and director of content and training, Valérie Toupin-Dubé has put her shoulder to the wheel to set up programs for young farmers, forging numerous links with local producers, specialists, ministries, universities and teachers from a local school ready to do activities on dairy production, market gardening and others. And it works ! In three days of fairs, the organization can reach between 1,500 and 3,000 people.

This is proof that the 34-year-old woman was predisposed to leadership. Moreover, among the many prizes and recognitions awarded to him during his studies at McGill, let us mention the Brown-Martlet Entrepreneurial Catalyst Award for the best student research on sustainable development (2014), the Gretta Chambers Student Leadership Award ( 2015), the Laure Waridel Scholarship from Équiterre (2015), the Canada Volunteer Award — Emerging Leader category (2017).

After the low point of the pandemic, the wheel began to spin again at full speed. Valérie says that things even got out of control. “Imagine that this summer, during a day of fair where we had eight groups of day camps, we ran out of milk to make butter! » In these times, admit that it is rather rare that a shortage is good news. But rest assured. As part of the documentary series Chef Oli goes rural which Valérie is working on and which will be broadcast this winter on Télé-Québec, we won't miss anything.

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Isabelle Roy, la promotrice des produits d'ici
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