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Lauren Rathmell tends to some vegetable plants in the nursery at Lufa Farms Inc., rooftop greenhouse in Montreal, Saturday, March 26, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Urban agriculture is getting a $750,000 boost from the province and from Montreal to help develop the farming sector.

 The goal is to spur innovation and growth in urban farming, agriculture and local greenhouses, ensuring the projects align with the needs in each part of town to add to the vitality of the area.

"It will give us the opportunity to do a deeper study about the needs, the possibilities (and) the opportunities," said Mayor Valerie Plante. "And also to come up with how we can financially support some of the existing initiatives and some of the new initiatives that support this whole sector."

 It's the first agreement of its kind, said Plante, with $650,000 coming from Quebec's agriculture department and $150,000 from the city.

The money will cover:

  • a study on the economic potential of urban agriculture
  • a feasibility study on establishing independent sellers or markets
  • a day for stakeholders to discuss innovative ideas for the sector

These measures have been due for a long time, said McGill University Urban Agriculture Professor Mark Lefsrud.

"The challenge with growing food in urban centres is it's typically listed as agricultural, and most cities don't allow for an agricultural zoning," he said.

Lufa Farms, Montreal's first rooftop commercial greenhouse, ran into the issue during its early days eight years ago.

"Building a rooftop greenhouse is a bit of a different beast. It hadn't been done before, so the zoning laws... didn't match exactly what we were building and so we had to work around that," explained Thibault Sorret, chief of staff at Lufa Farms.

Sorret said the funding is a step in the right direction. The expectation is it will uncover a tremendous appetite for locally grown food on the island of Montreal.

"Montreal has a strong community engagement with local farmer's markets, so there's like Atwater Market and all these market systems. So we already have the demand of the local consumer," said Lefsrud.