Montreal rolls out plans for community gardens, urban agriculture to help feed local residents

The City of Montreal is calling on green thumbs and budding gardeners alike to help improve food security and encourage urban agriculture this summer.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante announced Thursday that public health authorities will allow community gardens to gradually reopen between May 4 and 18 with new health and hygiene guidelines in place.

"For many people, community gardens are more than a hobby. They allow them to support themselves and have access to fresh products at a low cost. It was therefore essential for us to give access to these facilities to Montrealers,” said Plante.

Gardening in community plots will take place by appointment only, and gardeners will need to bring their own tools and wear gloves at all times. Common areas will be cleaned regularly.

Those hoping to establish their own plot will have to wait until next year, though -- only gardeners who registered last year will have access to their vegetable patch.

Registration fees will be deferred until Accès Montreal offices reopen.

FOOD PRODUCTION AT THE BOTANICAL GARDEN

The Botanical Garden will also be pitching in to help with food security: it will dedicate one hectare of land to produce fruits and vegetables to donate to community organizations.

The food it will produce will be enough to feed 100 people for a year, and is more than double the amount it usually grows in a season, said Charles-Mathieu Brunelle, director of Espace pour la vie, which includes the Botanical Garden, Biodome, Insectarium and Planetarium. 

The Botanical Garden will also help Montrealers grow at home by offering a series of web capsules as well as in-person workshops for beginners who want to make their first vegetable garden successful and for regular gardeners who want expert advice.

The opening date for the Botanical Gardens has not yet been announced, but will not be before May 18, said Brunelle.

SUPPORT FOR HOME GARDENS

Montreal’s executive committee also approved $45,000 in support for the organization Cultiver Montreal, which develops and promotes agriculture throughout the Montreal area.

Among its programs is a home delivery service that will be offered in ten boroughs, providing seedlings of various plants and the materials needed to grow food at home.

“The health crisis we are going through is changing our lifestyle. This is an opportunity to improve our food self-sufficiency by cultivating the products we need at home,” said Laurence Lavigne Lalonde who oversees urban agriculture on the city’s executive committee.

SEASONAL MARKETS

Plante also announced on Thursday that the city’s seasonal markets will be back up and running this summer.

Public health officials approved the reopening, saying in a news release that the markets “contribute to food security for families by providing access to local, fresh and nutritious food products,” but that the markets “will obviously have to comply with public health guidelines in order to ensure the safety of their customers and employees.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it critical that residents support local businesses, and that includes agriculture, said Plante.

“More than ever, we need to focus on eating locally,” she said. 

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