August 7 – FARMS
The Institute has always counted on farms to cater to its needs. The first ones were in France. The first and the most lasting (one century and a half) was that of the Mother House of Saint-Laurent. From 20 June 1835, shortly before the transfer of the Brothers to the Supiot house, several plots of land (field, meadow, garden) were bought by the side of the town. It was the embryo of what would become a farm, with a cow-house put up in 1836, buildings acquired in 1840, grassland on the banks of the Sevre, and fields outside the enclosure. Tens of Brothers would work there. One other farm was bought in 1897 at Senaillac-la:-Tronquiere (Lot), to make up for the meagre resources of the Centre Province. It served us until 1903.
The Province of Midi, which tried to have continuity in Italy, invested in two huge farms in Ethiopia between 1905 and 1911. One, at Arguitti, which employed 60 workers, was devoted to breeding silk worms. The other was at Alila, where about one hundred families reared cattle. The Province could not gain any profit from these. The farm at La Mothe-Achard, started with the agricultural school in 1923, continued for 20 more years after the transfer of the school at La Roche-sur-Yon in 1979.
Today, the farm at La Peyrouse, France, continues to make enough profits for the retired Brothers to live on them.
For Canada, the year 1911 marked a double initiative. At Sault-au-Recollet, which only had gardens, a plot of land was purchased and farm buildings were put up closeSt Gabriel’s house. The same year, on 7 August, the Province bought a land from the Jesuits, situated about twenty kilometres east of Montreal on the territory of Saint Bruno-de-Montarville. The first transaction was followed by several others, until on 25 August 1922 the Fathers gave up their cattle and their material. The Grand Coteau villa was thereafter in the hands of the Brothers who would, for the great benefit of the Province, make a model farm with many hectares of cereal and potatoes, 4,500 apple trees! 200 beehives, about fifty milching cows, some 500 fowls and 700 pigs. About twenty Brothers worked there – some for very a long time (Br. Gontran, 54 years; Br. Isidore, 53 years) -led by Br. Aloys, a competent man who, for thirty years, was the adviser. to all the farms in the neighbourhood.
India, which had more need of resources than many other sectors of the Institute, bought a coffee estate called Honey Rock in 1933, about ten kilometres from Yercaud and employing around 80 workers. Two other places were bought later: towards 1960, the farm at Keelaiyur near Manapparai (Tarnilnadu) with·many tropical trees and, in 1974, St Joseph’s farm in Koothavakkam south of Madras (this latter was given up in 1992 because of an insufficient return).
The Province of Spain, very much in want after the civil war and the Second World War, bought a farm of one hundred hectares at Murillo de Rfo Leza, which unfortunately did not yield any returns and had soon to be disposed of.