Have you heard of Apothicari Fire Vinegar , Les Jardins de la Minga signature product? Inspired by the ancestral recipe for fire cider - a grandmother's remedy reputed to aid digestion and promote good health - this gourmet version made in Charlevoix deserves to be discovered, as much for the quality of the product as for the fabulous story behind it.
This is the story of two young local entrepreneurs, Arianne and Benjamin, who decided to unite in love and business to bring Québec's terroir to life.
A love story
Arianne and Benjamin met at university during their bachelor’s degrees in Montréal. A woofing experience in British Columbia when she was 18 had sparked a dream in Arianne’s heart: a career in agriculture in Québec. As much out of love for her as for nature, Benjamin decided to embark on the adventurous journey.
With the idea of setting up a vegetable farm, they visited many farms to prepare for the project ahead and lay the foundations.
Their second visit to the site of an equestrian project on Chemin St-Croix, a mountainside near Baie St-Paul, accelerated things. The opportunity was too good: 2 hectares of arable land, which hadn't been ploughed for 40 years, and a pretty little house overlooking the valley.
With the help of Arianne's parents, the couple took possession of the land on December 4, 2019, to start their Les Jardins de la Minga. The goal: to grow their sales and become financially independent. The ultimate goal? Become the only owners in 5 years.
The land first had to be ploughed and prepared. The project evolved while they worked on other vegetable farms. The couple started operating their new vegetable farm full-time in the summer of 2021, testing dozens of vegetable varieties and constantly fine-tuning the business model.
Adapting to a new way of life
Even working hard with the support of local farmers and subsidies that enabled them to build infrastructures to extend the gardening season, Arianne and Benjamin quickly came to one major conclusion : it would prove very difficult to make their project profitable.
To make the most out of the herbs and alliums they grew as well as keep themselves busy during the winter, Arianne had a sudden inspiration. She set out to develop a fire cider recipe. She opted for a gourmet version— a sort of culinary tonic that would pack a punch of flavour in a snap.
Her recipe? "A great unpasteurized organic apple cider vinegar in which ginger, turmeric, garlic, onion, horseradish, cayenne pepper and garden herbs are macerated for several weeks... I did several tests to get to this point," she said.
One of the advantages of this product is that the botanical ingredients can be harvested in summer, then frozen while awaiting production in the off-season, a clever way of doing business year-round and making operations profitable. When it launched, their fire cider was so successful that everything they produced for 2022 sold out in no time flat.
A history of fire
Fast forward to 2023: an area of around 1 hectare is now farmed with fields, greenhouses and a nursery, which, with the help of 5 seasonal workers, come together to produce over forty varieties of vegetables, fruit and herbs—from the most common to the rarest. "We try to diversify our products as much as possible, such as our popular mesclun lettuce and unique Charlevoix artichokes," explained Benjamin. Les Jardins de la Minga's business model is multifaceted: a self-service kiosk at the farm, subscription organic baskets, weekend farmers' market, local IGA distribution for fresh produce, and processed produce.
Even if the game is far from won, Arianne and Benjamin know that they now have a star product and a business model solid enough to take up the challenge of buying back their farm by 2025—and perhaps also show off this lesser-known part of Baie St-Paul by inviting people to visit the gardens and take part in pizza nights: "It's fun, it attracts neighbours and newcomers alike, and it adds life to the row.''
At Maison Orphée, we are honored that they have chosen our raw organic cider vinegar to develop their fan-fave product. We will do everything in our power to contribute to their success.