A Season Coloured by 500 Pairs of Hands

Agriculture, Featured

A look back at the 2021 urban agriculture season

Imagine a hot August day. The grass at the Cité-des-Hospitalières is dull, the plants are thirsty and you try to stay in the shade. The apples are crisp, the flowers are colourful, and the enthusiasm of five Hospitaller Sisters, about fifteen young people from Camp Robin Hood, and our coordinators Adrienne and Sam is more than present! The group is ready to pick flowers that will be paired with the Meals on Wheels the next day. It’s days like this that remind us of the nature of our urban agriculture work at the Roulant: a full circle, intergenerational, colourful, and multi-handed gardening. 🙌🌸💐

After a year in 2020 when measures to make our space safe during the pandemic limited our capacity, 2021 saw the reopening to the community. The program was able to accommodate over 500 people – big and small! As I read back over the 2020 season, I think that Lulu and Georgette were really carrying hope.

Harvests in Numbers

The program harvested nearly 900 kg of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers this year, half from the Cité-des-Hospitalières kitchen garden and half from the Roulant’s roof gardens. 

47% of the harvest was distributed to the Meals-on-Wheels program, 43% to Partage & Solidarité, a partner organization that distributes free baskets, and 10% to volunteers and special events. These harvests included a large quantity of flowers and herbs, as well as 45 kg of apples recovered from Cité-des-Hospitalières and destined for the Meals-on-Wheels applesauce! The great heat will have caused them to fall a month before the first harvest planned by the Fruits Défendus – who for the seventh consecutive year have carried out the fruit harvest, bravo Fruits def!🍎 

Environmental Challenges

In addition to the 20 days of heat waves, Montreal received only 35% of the average amount of rain it receives in August. This record is a frightening reminder of the importance of green spaces, islands of coolness, the resilience of native plants, and the major contribution that urban agriculture can make in adapting to climate change. 

Youth Involvement – 24 visits & 316 garden entries!

As Leah Penniman says in her book Farming While Black, “No land-based project is complete without the integration, empowerment and leadership of young people. As tomorrow’s agents of change and with a role to play in shaping their future and their community, youth remain the primary target audience for the Roulant’s urban agriculture program, and 2021 was a strong return to youth programming! 

Cooking and Inclusive Day Camps

A great partnership was born this summer with Camp Robin des Bois. We hosted groups of aspiring cooks aged 8-16 at the Cité-des-Hospitalières garden twice a week for 6 weeks! Led by our team, the Robin’s youth created menus with what was in the garden, played garden bingo, ran for the fruit tree rally challenge, and participated in garden chores and discussions about the environment and food justice. 

Camp Cosmos continued its partnership with the Roulant for a fourth year. A total of six visits allowed 40 young people from this anti-oppressive day camp to immerse themselves in the gardens of the Roulant through games, garlic harvesting, encounters with worms and other adventures. These are young people who otherwise would not necessarily have had the opportunity to garden, to discover the Cité-des-Hospitalières or to reflect on food issues.

Inspiring School Groups

Despite a difficult pandemic context, the youth from the EAU (Environment and Urban Agriculture) program came to spend an afternoon at the Roulant and the Cité! It’s hard to hide the excitement; we’re big fans of this unique program in Quebec. These high school students participated in the Roulant’s composting cycle by spreading organic matter at the Cité and feeding the composting worms in our basement (shout out to Vermicollectif!). In addition, we have an ongoing partnership with École au Pied-de-la-Montagne and Volailles et Gibiers Fernando for the Jardin Pizza seed-to-plate project, as well as a garlic planting with the FACE Green Committee! 

A huge thank you to the volunteers, our partner organisations, the 2021 team, and to YOU, thank you for reading. It’s been a fantastic season thanks to you. Now it’s time to plan next year’s gardens! If you would like to share with me what you are planning for 2022, please email me: magali@santropolroulant.org

On that note, have a good winter, and see you soon!


Photo Credits: Adrienne Richard, Samuel Paradis-Campeau, Magali Casaubon, Nazmus Syed, JFV/Santropol Roulant, Charles-Olivier Bourque/Cultiver Montréal, Jose Alvarado