Winter is coming! Or so we’re led to believe by the diminishing daylight. Yet the grass still grows green in the parks around the Plateau and the staff at the Roulant have taken to eating outside to profit from the still gorgeous weather. This year’s particular autumn may trick us into thinking that summer is not so far away but in fact the agricultural season is well and truly over and we’re now in that nostalgic period of the year in which we look back on those warmer times.
This year marked a few big changes for our agriculture team. Last winter Clémence stepped in to the big shoes left behind by Tim and has done a great job filling them as Co-Manager of the Farm. Meanwhile Noémie’s recent departure from her post as Urban Agriculture Co-Manager has left a (temporary) void which brings with it the bitter-sweetness of losing a great colleague and friend while making room for the new to flourish. Beyond the succession of those perennial members of the team there is the annual cycle of new faces that come with the arrival our apprentice, Sarah, and interns Cadence, Camilla, Claudia, Erin, Jocelyne, Kai, and Vicki. The presence of these fine folk, albeit it brief, brings so much to our daily life during the season and to our organization as a whole. This year in particular the learning has flowed as much from the permanent staff towards the temporary as the other way around.
Having a larger team in the growing season allows us, as an organization, to take on more projects and deepen our impact all the while ensuring that the gardens and farm are providing us with delicious produce.
This year the farm established itself in fields that will be part of its landscape for years to come. The team out there, supported by a host of volunteers, was also able to establish a perennial herb garden, tend to their bees, start working on a wood-burning oven, contribute to local seed-saving initiatives, and compost nearly all the organic waste produce downtown all while keeping up with the hectic rhythm of hosting two markets, and supplying nearly 100 fresh veggie baskets to Montrealers.
Downtown in the urban growing landscape, we accomplished several special projects that added a lot to the agriculture program and partnerships. In particular we were really proud to re-invigorate our intergenerational gardening project, to collaborate with the First People’s House at McGill, put up a green wall at the Roulant, and serve as an entry point for those in our community seeking to connect with their local food system.
The Roulant’s agriculture team is increasingly bringing the two halves of what used to be parallel projects closer together. The hallmark of this effort is the project Entre Grange et Gratte-ciel which bridges the realities of urban gardening and peri-urban farming. At the core of this project are tours that we offer to young people who come to learn about organic agriculture and its importance in protecting our environment and ensuring a resilient food system. The participants of these tours range from 6 to 20 years old and for many it is their first contact with gardening. The impact these visits has on young people is hard to quantify but is strikingly obvious to the observer: there is nothing more satisfying than to see a child pull out their first carrot and shriek with excitement as their brain makes the calculation : “My food grows UNDERGROUND!” or to hear of how they report back to their parents with enthusiasm about wanting to start their own garden at home.
These tours are largely run by our interns who get to hone their teaching and leadership skills through the experience. They are made possible to a great degree by the support of our partners at the Fonds régional d’investissement jeunesse (FRIJ), and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation to whom we are very grateful. We are also grateful to our many other partner organizations who make this program possible. This year we were lucky to host Lasalle College, St Georges School, Camp Robin des Bois, Centre du Plateau, McGill Exploration Summer Camps, Camp Cosmos, Sentier Urbain, Projet Harmonie, Dawson College, Ateliers Boite-à-lunch, Pousses Urbaines, Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi Côte-Vertu, Y des femmes, and our friends from Little Burgundy via the Marché Citoyen. With their participation we were able to bring over 300 youth into our gardens and share our passion for local food.
It was a wonderful season with lots of work on the part of everyone who set foot in our gardens a few who were involved from afar. We are very grateful to all our community for their support.
Carlo, Clémence, Noémie, and Samuel a.k.a. the perennial ag team
PS. We’re still wrapping up loose ends, there’s even a little bit left to harvest, and we’re looking forward to a slower pace in the coming weeks. That being said, we received our first seed catalog in the mail today which got this author a little too excited for the arrival of spring!