| Urban Fruits & Veggies |
Over the past three decades, the metropolitan community of Montreal has lost more than 30,000 hectares of farmland, according to the Coalition pour la protection du territoire agricole. That’s more than 74,000 acres. Pretty much like any other urban area in the world, Montreal’s food supply comes mostly from beyond its territorial limits, which means its citizens and visitors alike are highly dependent on remote areas for the production of what’s on their tables. Yet interesting projects which begin to solve this problem have been put in place lately. Among them is rooftop farming.
In Montreal, as well as in other great urban areas across the world, the loss of farm land resulting from the ever-increasing densification of big cities makes it impossible for their inhabitants to produce the food they need in proportions of any significance. Still, if you look at Montreal from the sky, what you see is rooftops: what the city needed in order to start producing more of the food it consumes was simply a few great minds who saw the potential of taking advantage of that largely unoccupied space.
This is exactly what The Rooftop Gardens Project (Des jardins sur les toits) seeks to do, even in a climate with a relatively short growing season subject to sudden, huge swings in temperature. Started in 2003, this project initiated by the non-profit organization Alternatives encourages development of unused spaces such as balconies, terraces and—of course—rooftops across the city. The many food-growing spaces started through The Rooftop Gardens Project not only yields organic fruits and vegetables and adds greenery to improve the way the city looks, but they also help cool the summer atmosphere by fighting urban heat islands. Tourists definitely ought to take a look at these gardens as they roam the streets of Montreal.
Finding space to grow food
Community projects are not the only aspect of Montreal’s booming rooftop farming scene. In 2011, in order to produce more food locally, Lufa Farms built the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse in the middle of the island of Montreal. The company’s basic motto is to sustainably produce food where people live— then deliver it right away.
And so, Lufa Farms’ food is harvested early in the morning and immediately put in baskets for which customers have previously signed up. By afternoon these baskets arrive at 100 pick-up points across the city. In other words, thousands of Montrealers get their locally raised fruits and vegetables just a few blocks away from their apartment or condo on the same day they were harvested. Amazing, isn’t it? Visiting Lufa Farms certainly can be interesting for curious tourists who wish to see how the magic happens!
The aforementioned rooftop gardening projects are just one aspect of the great efforts Montreal deploys in order to promote its green vision. For example, most of its inhabitants enjoy only limited—and sometimes nonexistent—space in their own backyards, so the city launched a network of community gardens way back in 1975. Nowadays, there are some 97 community gardens across the city where residents grow their own fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers and herbs throughout the summer. Tourists can participate in organized walking tours (in French) of some of the best of the city’s urban agriculture or simply enjoy happening upon these productive spaces and seeing urban citizen-farmers caring for their precious harvests … only steps from downtown Montreal hotels and bustling bars, busy streets and skyscrapers!—Alexandre Duval, freelance blogger, who writes about tourism in Montreal and elsewhere in Canada and the world