The Laboratoire sur l’agriculture urbaine (AU/LAB) has launched MontréalCulteurs — a support, incubation and networking program designed to assist urban agricultural business start-ups and establish commercial farms and the social economy in Montreal.
Inspired by Parisculteurs, a program launched by the city of Paris in 2016, the AU/LAB launched Coupons AgriUrbains — a support service for community farm projects across Quebec — in May. It will help community groups design and develop sites and assist with urban planning and potential soil problems.
In addition to supporting Coupons AgriUrbains projects, AU/LAB researches public and private development motivations to promote urban farms on land or in municipal facilities.
MontréalCulteurs helps urban businesses with program
Supported by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, MontréalCulteurs connects property owners and managers who have available empty space — such as a roof, basement, commercial space, parking lot or a vacant lot — with urban agriculture businesses (cooperatives, non-profits or private enterprises) looking for places to develop urban farms.
The agricultural businesses will have access to entrepreneurial training streams specializing in urban agriculture, a project incubator, workshops and a program of events — including webinars, guided tours and networking opportunities — offered by urban agriculture experts.
“Over the last 10 years, commercial urban agriculture has been growing exponentially,” said Jean-Philippe Vermette, director, public policy and programs, Laboratoire sur l’agriculture urbaine, in a release.
“Today, Montréal is a leader in urban agriculture and home to 45 farms, more than any other city in the world. The MontréalCulteurs program will consolidate that leadership position and provide a springboard to keep Montreal going over the next decade.”
AU/LAB also announced its first call for projects in May. The organization set up the initiative to support community groups and projects which don’t meet the criteria for programs currently available on the market.
Several projects were received from across Quebec and the following five were selected to receive support:
Farmhouse Collective | The Pointe-Saint-Charles Farm by Bâtiment 7
The Pointe-Saint-Charles Farm is a small farmhouse project with an area of 1,400 square metres. A kitchen will be installed onsite and used to process agricultural products from the farm.
AU/LAB will provide the project with agronomic support for the design and operation of the agricultural plot.
Agri-life by L’Espace Jeunesse en March
The objective of this project is to create green spaces around the L’Espace Jeunesse en Marche building. The first step will be to replace the adjacent parking lot with a garden.
Next the façade of the building will be transformed into an “island of greenery”. The space will be dedicated to biodiversity and will serve to train young people about urban agriculture.
Solidarité Ahuntsic — Louvain East site
This project consists of a space dedicated to outdoor agricultural production and a greenhouse, which will make it possible to produce crops year-round. The project will also involve developing a food hub to create a local food network.
This project will involve building a farm covering an area of more than 5,000 square metres. The space will be dedicated to agricultural production for the community.
The AU/LAB team will offer technical and financial advice regarding the design of the farm, and follow up when the project begins in spring 2022.
Pour un réseau actif dans nos quartiers (PRAQ)
This group’s name means, “For an active network in our neighbourhoods”. The project aims to develop several spaces in the city centre for citizens to use for planting, collecting foodstuffs and social activities.
The goal is to revitalize the neighbourhood that will host the farm, educate citizens on urban agriculture to develop food autonomy, and offer school workshops.
PRAQ already occupies several spaces in the city of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield and wants to develop similar places where agricultural production, knowledge transfer and citizen sharing combine.
AU/LAB will support PRAQ in visualizing the project and establishing public spaces through technical recommendations, and legal and regulatory guidance.
How community gardens benefit the environment
“Across the globe, more cities are realizing the value that urban farms can create, including social, environmental, and economic benefits,” according to Freight Farms.
Community gardens can help mitigate many of the problems present in urban environments by:
– reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by transporting food;
– reducing waste through composting;
– increasing the biodiversity of plants and animals;
– reducing extreme heat — Tree coverage and ground vegetation can contribute to cooling;
– urban farmers often employ more environmentally-friendly growing practices — using fewer pesticides and chemical fertilizers — which reduces the environmental impact of agriculture.
The MontréalCulteurs program is in partnership with the City of Montréal. It receives funding from the Québec government under the Action-Climat Québec program and meets the objectives of the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy, an electrification and climate change policy framework for Québec.
The framework lays the groundwork for a green economy — which is both resilient to climate change and more prosperous — by 2030.
“The City of Montréal is very proud to contribute to the creation of the MontréalCulteurs program to help start new urban farms in the heart of the city,” said Véronique Doucet, director of Montréal’s Service du développement économique, in a release. “Thanks to the assistance provided, entrepreneurs will have a solid business plan to ensure their businesses’ future.
“Property managers who welcome these farms will be able to generate value from their under-used spaces.
“By supporting MontréalCulteurs — an initiative that supports the goals of the 2021 economic recovery plan and 2021–2026 Urban Agriculture Strategy — the city is encouraging the growth of an emerging economic sector that will help build a green, resilient Montréal and showcase its achievements.”
About Urban Agriculture Laboratory
The AU/LAB is a not-for-profit organization devoted to research, training, innovation and action in the area of urban agriculture and food. It is a nationally and internationally recognized authority in urban agriculture and has more than 12 years of experience.
The organization is also responsible for managing the Carrefour de recherche, d’expertise et de transfert en agriculture urbaine (CRETAU).
The laboratory has 2,000 square metres of space devoted to agricultural production, agronomic and economic research and support services.