The First Steps Towards an Agroeducational Farm

Agriculture, Senneville Farm, Volunteering - Personal

2022 has brought a wind of change to the Roulant Farm. The farm is preparing to become a space dedicated to education for a more just and sustainable food system. To do this, we want to showcase the best farming practices that promote soil health and biodiversity. At each stage of production, volunteers, school groups, day camps and corporate groups will be able to join the farm team to learn and contribute! The 2022 season allows us to start this process at a small pace: a corporate group here, a school group there, a few volunteer shifts per week and regular community events, where we all come together around sustainable agriculture.

More events celebrating agriculture

The farm has been opening its doors to the Roulant community and families through the 2022 Community Farm Days! The goal of these days is to offer farm activities and tours, and share a meal together. It’s a great time to experience the beauty of the West Island’s agricultural landscape.
We held our first two Community Farm Days in May and July, featuring weeding in the tunnels and harvesting garlic in the fields, followed by a well-deserved lunch. The event in May was even accompanied by festive musicians and a presentation of the work of the MyCollectif.

If we’ve peaked your interest, the next Community Day at the farm will take place on Friday, September 2 from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, rain or shine! More details here.

Produce for public institutions

Educating people about all things agriculture takes time, which is a precious resource on a small but busy farm like ours. The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) vegetable basket model that we have practiced over the past decade is very labour intensive: it requires producing a wide variety of vegetables in large quantities, and doing so with rigorous predictability and consistency. After ten years of producing vegetables for the people of Montreal, the farm is completely changing its distribution model.

Instead of producing 35 different vegetables, we selected 15 varieties of vegetable that have the fewest pests and require the least amount of maintenance (weeding and thinning). In collaboration with the Local and Integrated Food System in Montreal (SALIM), the West Island farms now work in tandem to sell their vegetables to a network of public institutions (universities, daycare centers, hospitals). The process of taking orders and delivery is pooled, in roder to free up the farmers’ time.

Baskets and markets represent a real commitment for farmers: individually portioning all the products, packing the greens, driving to the drop-off point, setting up the market and participating for several hours. This new collective marketing frees up more than a full day’s work for our farmers to redirect their energies.

This partnership model with other West Island farms through SALIM is in its first iteration. We hope that over time, more institutions will want to source organic vegetables locally, and that more of our production will contribute to this food change! This is an opportunity for the Roulant Farm to make its organic, local produce accessible to a more diverse population from all economic backgrounds.

School groups at the farm

The farm welcomed its first school group of the season in late May! From Lac St-Jean, 35 secondary 5 students spent the day learning about agriculture and helping with farm chores. Due to the pandemic, the last school group to come to the farm was in 2019. Previously, we mainly welcomed elementary students to the farm, but we are happy to host activities at the farm that now correspond to different age groups.

What does a day on the farm look like with a class of high school students?

  • An ice breaker circle between students and the agriculture team
  • Interactive activity on the role of biodiversity in agriculture
  • Small group discussions and feedback on the activity topic
  • Farming tasks such as tutoring tomatoes, planting peppers, planting green manure, etc.

As the season progresses, a variety of tasks can accommodate a good number of hands, such as seeding and planting in May, maintaining crops in June, harvesting garlic in July, planting garlic and tearing down the fields in October.

For interested teachers, note that we are launching our first Farm to School week October 3-7, 2022. We would love to have several school groups there to participate in end of season farm activities!

Volunteering at the Farm

Volunteering at the farm has been in full swing for 3 months now! About 20 volunteers have been coming on a semi-regular basis so far, and we can welcome many more. The tasks vary a lot, but planting, crop maintenance and harvesting are the most frequent activities.

Schedule: Every Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:15 AM to 12:00 PM

To register, you can simply text the farm phone 438-389-6616 your name and the day you wish to come to the farm. If you prefer to register over the phone, you can always call the Roulant at 514-284-9335 and ask about carpooling options.

Bring closed-toed shoes, long pants (to ward against ticks), a bottle of water, sunscreen, a hat and food! You are always welcome to stay a bit after noon so we can have lunch together.

However you choose to get involved, the Roulant Farm looks forward to welcoming you! It’s been so nice to finally see you in the fields again.

See you soon!
– Virginie