January 2019 – Michel Girard
Fond Farm Memories
Michel Girard has fond memories of growing up on a dairy farm in Lac Saint-Jacques, a rural town in northern Quebec. His parents were farmers. His grandparents were too. Farming just seems to run in the family genes. So, it was an easy decision soon after his retirement in 2015 to become a volunteer at the Central Experimental Farm.
“I didn’t want to be a farmer but thought it was wonderful to have a farm in the middle of the city,” he says, remembering fondly the days when he lived just a short walk away from the Farm.
Michel’s first volunteer job was to help with a survey of existing trees in the Arboretum. Ironically, way back when he was a boy in grade eight, he was involved in a similar survey of trees around Lac Saint-Jacques as part of his school science project. “I remember thinking, this is amazing. This is like when I started my science career,” he recollects.
It was a smooth transition for him to move from working as a research scientist at Health Canada for thirty years to helping at the Farm as a volunteer. The work on the survey suited him well. As he completed the survey, he enjoyed learning about the diversity of trees at the Arboretum using a GPS device to track down their location and then help with their identification.
Nowadays, Michel enthusiastically continues to embrace life as a volunteer at The Farm. His tasks sometimes change. He helps out once or twice a week during the growing season, depending on the jobs required. This past summer, for instance, he helped with a project to dig up, split, move and transplant about sixty hosta plants. Hostas have roots are like cement, so they’re tough and not easy to split. It was a big job for him and the other volunteers, all women.
The Hosta Gardens are located on a sloping hill in the Arboretum, nestled among cedar and cypress trees. Unfortunately however, the retaining walls had started to give way. Some of the plants needed to be moved to flat ground. The work needed to be done quickly. He and “my little ladies”, as he affectionately calls his fellow team members, got the job done right on schedule.
He continues to help as needed with other volunteer jobs at the Farm, such as setting up or taking down tables for the Victorian Tea, a fundraiser organized each year by Friends of the Farm.
“I do enjoy doing these things,” he says. “Mind you, I don’t enjoy it when it’s 35 degrees Celsius outside. I do think it’s worth it though. We need to keep our Farm intact.”
Wise words. Especially coming from a retired scientist whose memories will always be back on the family farm.
Text by Julianne Lebreche
Photo by Polly McColl