The people who live in the isolated village of Saint-Élie-de-Caxton are not raising enough food to keep themselves fed. Ésimésac convinces his neighbors to participate in a community garden to solve their problem. In the spring as the project is getting started, the residents hear a rumor that construction of a railroad in the area will soon connect their village with the world, bringing the promise of plenty of food and an easier life. The local blacksmith Riopel is influential in the town and he convinces the citizens one by one to give up on the garden in favor of manufacturing rails for the coming trains. By summer, most of the townsfolk have sided with Riopel and turned away from gardening-but was their decision a wise one?