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The Patates Dolbec story started with a couple’s dream. Francine Sauvageau and Herman Dolbec, both from the Portneuf area, weren’t happy with their respective waitressing and logging jobs, but didn’t want to leave home in search of new work. Since they both had a passion for farming and a taste for entrepreneurship, the solution soon became clear: why not grow potatoes? Making a living from potatoes would be quite a challenge, but Francine and Herman decided to forge ahead and realize their dream. What an adventure it would be!

In 1967, Herman and Francine embarked on their potato growing project by buying a small business belonging to Herman’s father. At the time, Adrien Dolbec had no idea the horse, plow and 25 acres of land he sold to his son would put Saint-Ubalde on the map and make the Dolbec name famous across Quebec and Canada, and even as far afield as the United States!

Since money was tight at the beginning, the couple set up their company in the obvious place: their home! They made room for an office on the first level and a warehouse in the basement. To make a decent living from potatoes, they realized they needed more land. For their first expansion, they chose a piece of land at Montauban-des-Mines for its sandy soils. At first, they harvested with a horse and plow, followed by a small open tractor and harvester. Fifty-pound bags were filled as the potatoes were pulled out of the ground, and were left lying in the field. At the end of the day, they would use the tractor and a flatbed trailer to gather all the bags and store them in the basement. But their work was far from done. They would then have to hand-pack 5- and 10-pound bags, to be sold door to door . .

 

In the early 1970s:

  • Some grocery stores agreed to stock their produce.
  • They bought more land.
  • They built a small warehouse to free up the basement.
  • They built an innovative packing centre where the potatoes could be washed. Patates Dolbec was one of the first companies in Quebec to do this! No more packing in the fields—now they had to invest in a bigger tractor, a new harvester and a tractor-trailer to deliver the potatoes to Marché Central in Montreal and some grocery stores.

Between 1976 and 1980:

  • They purchased more land in Saint-Alban and Saint-Ubalde.
  • They scaled up their Marché Central delivery from one trailer load of potatoes to two!
  • They signed a contract with the Metro-Richelieu grocery chain.

1981

Herman and Francine’s talent, hard work and determination earned them a Mercuriade award for a primary production enterprise, given to companies that had shown exceptional performance in promoting a natural resource.

1986

Francine and Herman wanted to grow their company, but the fact that they didn’t speak English prevented them from expanding into new, lucrative markets. So they sent their son, Stéphan, to study in the United States. On his return at age 18, Stéphan was instructed by his parents to develop the US market and raise the company’s visibility in Quebec.

1988

A new packing centre was built, equipped with the best available technology at the time.

1991

A huge controlled-atmosphere warehouse was built with a storage capacity of 260 trailer loads (13,000,000 pounds of potatoes). Patates Dolbec could now store its harvest and supply potatoes to customers year-round!

  • The company continued to buy land with a view to enhancing crop quality rather than quantity.

1994

His death came as a huge shock and tremendous loss, both personally and professionally. Despite their grief, Francine and Stéphan decided to roll up their shirtsleeves and keep the dream alive. With the support of their solid team—including Jean-Luc Picard, an accountant with Bédard & Guilbault, and crop production manager Vital Béliveau—they kept the company going.

At the time of its founder’s death, Patates Dolbec owned 3,500 acres of land, harvested over 40,000,000 pounds of potatoes; had a storage capacity of 500 tractor-trailers; sold close to 4,000,000 ten-pound bags of potatoes per year; and employed 75 people.

1995

With a view to diversifying its markets, Patates Dolbec started the fresh-cut processing company Légubec. From now on, the company would process its Canada #2 potatoes, along with other vegetables.

  • The company started rotating its potato crops with cereal crops to protect its soils, keep them healthy and maintain the high quality of their potatoes.
  • They continued buying land, acquiring 700 new acres.
  • They also built new offices, which would be up and running the following year.

1996

To keep pace with growth, the administrative team had to be reorganized. With a solid new team in place, the company forged ahead.

  •  The second phase of the warehousing project was completed with the construction of a new atmosphere-controlled warehouse with a capacity of 260 trailer loads of potatoes.
  • A major technological innovation was introduced: a GPS yield-mapping system on the harvester.

1997

The high-tech innovations continued with the installation of variable-rate seeding and fertilizing systems.

1998

The company acquired a second vegetable processing plant, Légumes Lapointe, at Vanier in the Quebec City area. Légubec was moved to Vanier.

Seeking to combine research with production, Patates Dolbec entered into a partnership agreement with Université Laval. From now on, the company would have an in-house agronomist and research laboratory for several different projects. To this day, the partnership has been extremely beneficial to both parties.

1999

Founding of the Portneuf-Mauricie Inc. fertilizer centre—a partnership between Patates Dolbec, Coop St-Ubalde and Coop Univers.

2000 à 2003

Acquisition of over 800 acres of land and purchase of high-tech agricultural equipment, including a tractor with an autopilot system (it basically drives itself!). The company also purchased its first two GPS guidance systems for potato planting. Technology is really changing the face of agriculture! This period also saw the construction of a new garage, fully equipped to accommodate all the new equipment.

2003

The energy, innovation and business acumen of Stéphan and his team earned them the recognition of their peers: Stéphan received the Ernst & Young Quebec Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the agri-food sector.

2004

Ten years after his father passed away, Stéphan purchased the family business, becoming president and owner.

Construction of a grain centre for drying and storing cereal crops. .

 

 

2005

Purchase of Ferme Rompré, now called Bovibec,   one of the biggest cattle feedlots in Quebec. With this acquisition, Patates Dolbec increased its total land by 2,000 acres.

 

2008

Stéphan received a Top 40 Under 40 Award, following a selection of candidates and vote among industry mentors. The 40 Under 40 Awards Program recognizes the 40 top entrepreneurs in Canada and the United States under the age of 40.

2009

Patates Dolbec bought 75% of the shares in the vegetable processing company Coac inc., located in Portneuf.

 

Stéphan was appointed chair of the Quebec Produce Marketing Association (AQDFL).

 

 

 

Launch of the Champêtre line of pre-cooked potatoes (8 varieties, plain and seasoned)

 

Purchase of the company R. Thomassin & Fils inc., a fresh-cut processing company.

Purchase of more land from a local producer (over 500 acres). The company reached its target of 10,000 acres of land!

2012

Sale of Légubec inc. and Coac inc. to Saladexpress. Patates Dolbec then reinvested in the new company. We believe this partnership will allow us to become a major player in the fresh-cut vegetables market through top-quality products and excellent customer service.