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Winds of change!

Newspaper clipping.

Newspaper article, August 17, 1967, from the Annals of Saint-Joseph farm.

In 1966, the threat of a strike reached the farm after two of the employees were accredited by the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN). Following a hard round of negotiations, the two employees were fired, which sparked a storm of reactions among the other workers.

Eight of them went on strike, asking for better wages. For eight days milk flowed into the drainage wells, eggs accumulated, raspberries were lost, and vegetables ripened on their stocks. The men were blocking access to the farm, making it impossible for the nuns to cross the picket line and harvest the fruit of their labour.

The employees finally returned to work, as an agreement with the union had been reached. In return, they demanded that the resident Sisters leave the farm and return to life in the convent. They would eventually come back to the farm, but only after the trouble was over. The future of the farm hung in the balance.


The strike pushed the Congregation to re-evaluate the farm’s viability. The analysis revealed the low output of the dairy herd, only average egg production, and a relatively low hay harvest. The farm was no longer viable.

In 1966, new Canadian Dairy Commission requirements would force the Congregation to make large investments. Ownership of a farm was no longer beneficial. Moreover, fewer girls were joining the Congregation, so they did not need so much food. The Congregation was hard hit by social change in 1960s Quebec, leading to the closure of the Teacher Training School and Family Institute.

The Congregation put a stop to all the work on the farm and fired the employees. Only Victorien Simard remained as overseer and labourer. All the animals, equipment and machinery had to be sold. Everything was liquidated by auctioneers in 1968.

From 1969 to 2001, the Congregation could only mitigate the farm’s depreciation by renting out the land to local farmers, and the buildings to charitable organisations. The City of Saguenay purchased part of the property for recreational developments. The rest of the land could not be sold due to the agricultural zoning law. The Sisters continued to live at the Saint-Joseph farmhouse and hoped for the best. Not until 2001 did a new opportunity arise for them.