Bringing hope: looking back on the Roulant’s urban agriculture season

Agriculture, Featured

Une fillette masquée regarde avec attention son rateau avec les mains couvertes de terre

It’s the penultimate volunteer shift of the urban agriculture season and four-year-old Lulu is being looked after by our star volunteer Stella. After a few email exchanges with me and a bit of apprehension, the two arrive hand-in-hand, wearing their face coverings, trowels in their bag, ready to lend a hand in the gardens. Under the autumn sun, Lulu is quick to search for earthworms and move mountains of dirt, emanating all the joy she can. As the Urban Agriculture Manager, my heart is overflowing.

Georgette, an elder in our community, passionate about flowers and bursting with good humor, arrives at the door of the Roulant one morning in September, with her iconic sunflower-patterned denim apron and, above all, with a smile that extends far beyond her mask. She joins us for a seed saving session and teaches me what a black-eyed Susan flower is.

For me, Lulu and Georgette have been symbols of resistance and resilience in our gardens this season: presences that bring hope. The Roulant’s mission to connect generations through food is undoubtedly challenged due to confinement. Visits, workshops and events are canceled, no groups of children have come through… Enough reasons to be deflated. But the fact that we were able to safely accommodate these two members and the privilege of seeing the gardens through their eyes fills my heart and inspires us to persevere.

It is with this energy that I share with you today the results of an urban farming season unlike any other!

Food baskets

When our kitchen team decided to stop the preparation and delivery of fresh salads to reduce the risk of contamination, the rooftop salad vegetables had to find another destination. By joining forces with Partage & Solidarité, our fresh and organic vegetables from the roof have been part of close to 2,000 free, accessible food baskets distributed every week, throughout the season, in several neighborhoods in Montréal. Learn more about this organization which fights against food waste and for access to healthy food for all.

Our neighbours behind the stone walls

A great collaboration was born this year with the vegetable patch in the garden of the Religious Hospitallers, a neighboring garden and a longtime friend of the Roulant. Almost 400 kg of vegetables were donated to be used by the Meals-on-Wheels, as well as for the Partage & Solidarity baskets!

The start of a digital shift

To persevere in its educational mission, the urban agriculture program turned to virtual workshops. We held our very first “Meet Your Farmers”, in collaboration with Cultiver MTL, to allow a virtual foray into the daily lives of the women behind urban and peri-urban agriculture at the Roulant and to visit our fields and gardens virtually. Did you miss the event? You can watch the webcast again here! Then, our fabulous urban agriculture intern Camille Monette-Dubeau wrote and illustrated a zine for her personal project: “Women, agriculture and urbanity”. Stay tuned for more workshops to come!

Urban agriculture in numbers

Despite the circumstances and a shortened season, nearly 650 kg of fruit, vegetables and flowers have grown in our urban gardens. There were also 40 volunteer shifts carried out by 60 volunteers (including 30 new ones!) in addition to the 5 workshops and 3 visits to the gardens. Half (50%) of the harvests were distributed in the Partage & Solidarité food baskets, 33% were used by the Meals-on-Wheels, 13% were given to volunteers and the last 2%, representing 18 kg of flowers and vegetables, were used to make care packages for the very first Community (Day)tour!

A BIG THANK-YOU

To all the volunteers and to our partners, thank you for this rock and roll season! We can’t wait to welcome you in our gardens next year, and continue to connect our community through food! A special thank you to Marie-Anne Viau, who gave herself body and soul during four seasons of urban agriculture! The entire Roulant team is proud of you and wishes you the best in your next adventures. Stay tuned for the seasonal results of the peri-urban farm, take good care of yourself, and don’t forget to admire the earthworms!!!

Magali💜

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