Last year’s sugaring season wasn’t the first at Les Sucreries Jetté. It wasn’t the fifth or even the fiftieth for the Jetté family of Mirabel. Judith Jetté says it with pride: “With my two partners, my cousin Frédéric Jetté and my brother-in-law Éric Filion, we are the fifth generation to run this sugar bush, which was founded by our ancestor Paul.” No exaggeration then to say maple syrup runs in their veins.
From the Pharmacy to the Bush
In 2017, Judith was a pharmacy technician when she bought her father Clément’s shares in the family business and started her new life as a maple producer. Going from employee to manager is a huge change of role, especially when there’s also a change in field of work. “I remember the discussions we had about taking over the operation. One of my dad’s arguments was I’d be my own boss and only have to work two months of the year. I soon realized it was more like twelve months of the year!” But she took the plunge and joined her cousin and brother-in-law, who’d been shareholders for some time. They acquired the shares of a fourth Jetté brother to set up as equal partners in a business that was already well-established in the region. “My father and three of his brothers expanded and modernized Les Sucreries Jetté and set high quality standards for our product.”
We Are Family
Judith is nothing if not genuine. She’s proud to call herself a maple producer even if her roles involve business management, marketing, customer relations, and processing. “I’ve never tapped a tree but that doesn’t make me feel any less of a maple producer. What I do is make sure this company does well so, in my opinion, that makes me a maple producer.” The three partners divide the work according to their respective strengths and interests. And her parents remain involved, after years of owning the operation. Her father works on deliveries, watches over the tubing system, and provides advice. Her mother is involved in the spring processing rush and administrative duties all year round.
Getting Involved with the Movement
“I mustered the courage to get involved when an outgoing administrator urged me to and put my name forward. He believed in me.” Judith is now vice-president of the QMSP chapter in Outaouais-Laurentides after serving as administrator for two years. “I felt very welcome right from the start. We now have three women on our region’s board of directors.” The full-time maple producer and mother of two became determined to do everything she could to help the industry. “I wanted to be better prepared to answer the questions of producers who, like me, do 100% of their marketing and sales through intermediaries and direct to consumers. With so few of us using this business model, it’s important that our voices are heard.”