By Sean CosgroveUpdate June 28, 2001
From his presentation to Habitat 94
Edmonton, September 20, 1994,
as reported in Cities Feeding People:
Urban Agriculture and City Planning
in North & South. An IDRC Panel (papers).
Presented by IDRC
The City of Montreal has published an 8 page newsletter about urban agriculture in French.
Cultivons la ville: Agriculture urbaine et jardinage social
"Ce matin, Marcelo passera quelques heures dans son 'organoponico', jardin hors-sol, au coeur d'un vieux cin éma en ruine de la Havane. Olga récoltera quelques salades semées à même un sac de terreau éventré sur le balcon de son appartement de Saint Petersbourg. Wole, lui, grattera le sol rouge de son jardin, le long d'un boulevard de Lagos. Angela viendra partager avec d'autres femmes le fruit de leur travail dans leur jardin collectif de Montréal."
They also have produced a 25-minute video about collective gardening in their city titled "Cultiver la solidarité". It was made by Eco-initiatives, a very dynamic and creative community group in Montreal (based in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce) and the financing was provided by the Public Health Department. May 9, 2002, an English version of the video is now available titled: "Growing Together" for $10.
Direction de la santé
publique de Montréal-Centre
1301 Sherbrooke,est Montréal, QC H2L 1M3
Tél.:514-528-2400, poste 3414 Fax: 528-2426
Update, February, 1997 - A new 112 page publication (in French) describing the Montreal community gardens:
Créer un jardin communautaire
- L'aménager, le gérer, l'animer.
Auteurs: André Pedneault, Roll Grenier
Mouvement pour l'Agriculture Biologique -
Région Métropolitaine inc. (MAB-Métro)
4560, de Bellechasse, apt 2
Canada H1T 1Z2
Tel: (514) 872-6363 or (514) 376-8364
Personne ressource: Daniel Reid, directeur
The Island of Montreal, with a population of 2 million, has one of the best community gardening programs in North America.
Community Gardening ProfileMontreal began its community gardening program in the post-OPEC 1973 period, like most new wave community greening programs. Montreal has a very extensive, well-organized and supported community gardening program. Metro Montreal includes 15 municipalities which support over 100 community gardens.
The City of Montreal maintains the most by far, and has some 75 garden sites, in many sizes, containing 6654 allotment plots. The largest garden site has 255 plots. I am going to speak mostly about the City of Montreal program.
Their program is run by the Department of Recreation, Parks and Community Development. Soil, manure, fencing, water, tools, toilets, clubhouse/toolsheds and ongoing maintenance are provided by the City. In addition, there are five paid horticultural animators who are responsible for a group of sites. These resource people answer any horticulture inquiries, work with the executive of each garden group, and report on any maintenance problems. Maintenance is then provided by the Public Works Department.
HistoryIn the early 1970's, Italian and Portuguese immigrants in North Montreal were guerrilla gardening. Noticing this, the City tried to regulate the activity, and these regulations began to formalize a process to permit and organize community gardens. The City soon found itself stuck in a competition as neighbourhoods and groups fought to get land for gardens.
The community gardens then found a political champion at the Montreal Botanical Garden in Pierre Bourque, who sheltered the fledgling program under his wing. There was a great expansion until the program grew so large that administration bogged down. A complete review of the program by the City of Montreal took place in 1985, the year of the departure of Montreal's long serving boss-mayor Jean Drapeau.
The review was very significant and resulted in the establishment of clear policies for the establishment and operation of the gardens. The review mandated that all gardens use organic methods. It created the role of horticultural animator to help ensure a transition to organic gardening.
The Department of Recreation and Community Development was given over-all responsibility for the program. They co-ordinate several other Departments who work on different facets of the program. These include: Habitation & Urban Development; Provisioning and Buildings: Public Works; and Planning and Policy.
Current SituationThe community gardening program is especially popular with senior gardeners, age 55 and over. They are the majority in 39 gardens (and in 2/3 of the largest gardens). There is a multi-cultural presence in many gardens, and eight gardens have a majority of neither "anglo" nor "franco" citizens.
The gardens are very productive and have a long waiting list. Inscriptions cost $5.00 per year and solicitations are sent out in the monthly hydro bill. The City could site 12 new gardens on the basis of their waiting list of 25%.
Every gardener must agree to the rules of the garden program, such as the insurance stipulation. Insurance is provided in the City program. Gardeners are grouped in lots of 10 or 15 for insurance purposes. There is some flexibility in respect to how each garden is organized. Gardeners must grow, however, at least five different types of vegetables. They are now being allowed to grow flowers in the common areas along the fenced borders.
Many of the sites are on institutional land. Montreal relocated 12 gardens (1986-89), at a capital cost of $400,000. They estimate costs of $20,000. for the establishment of a new garden site of 90 plots. There is official community gardening zoning for 13 garden sites. 22 gardens are situated in City parks.
This is by far the largest, best organized program in Canada, owing, no doubt, to their community development goals and objectives. They are planning strategically to improve the program.
Key Challenges in the 90'sIn the 90's the program has conducted composting experiments in one-third of the gardens, is donating food to community kitchens, and is ensuring better access for disabled gardeners. It has also suffered funding cuts and has lost half of its important horticultural animators.
Other challenges that the program faces are the permanence of garden sites, finding land for new gardens, expanding existing ones and replacing gardens that have been lost to development. Also needing to be resolved is inter-departmental confusion about the availability of resources and each department's working role.
FuturePierre Bourque, community garden champion and a 30 year veteran of Montreal's civil service, was recently elected Mayor of Montreal. "Bourque has earned a reputation as a builder, be it the Biodome, Botanical Gardens, or dozens of parks he's helped create or improve during his tenure as the City's chief horticulturist and associate director of parks." His victory could mean more resources for community gardens. He has already called for more horticultural therapy projects in the City.
Sean Cosgrove of the Toronto Food Policy Council is a Board Member of the American Community Gardening Association. He wrote Metropolitan Agriculture in Victoria B.C. in 1990 as a Master's Degree Project for the Faculty of Environmental Design at The University of Calgary.
In 1977 a classic gardening film titled The Vacant Lot featured a Montreal community garden. This 16 minute National Film Board of Canada production is still available as part of a compilation video named The Plot Thickens along with two other Canadian gardening shorts.
From the Editor:
- The Vacant Lot
- The charming story of how a group of 176 senior citizens managed to transform a useless vacant lot in Montreal into a garden of delights - vegetables, flowers, and parties. It has completely changed their attitude about inactivity and retirement. (16:15)
- My Urban Garden
- In a backyard plot the size of a living room, Halifax gardener Carol Bowlby grows enough vegetables to last a family of five for seven months. Her wealth of practical information will delight and inspire. (26:33)
- Tara's Mulch Garden
- explains the techniques and processes whereby a bumper crop of vegetables can be produced without machinery, soil preparation or weeding. (20:35)
The National Film Board
PO Box 6100
Montreal, Quebec, H3C 3H5
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