By: Monique Beaudin
The Gazette –  June 5, 2012

Franck Delache and Karine Julienne were among those growing their own last year at the Georges Vanier community garden, part of a trend that is increasing rapidly across the Island. Photograph by: John Kenney , Gazette File Photo

MONTREAL – Gardening in the city used to be considered a leisure activity that beautified the areas around homes or buildings.

Now it’s known as urban agriculture, and cities around the world are realizing the positive effects it can have on everything from building strong communities to fighting climate change to feeding hungry people.

A new report by the city of Montreal has found agriculture is not practised only in the off-island farms of southern Quebec.

Bees live in hives at the Université de Montréal, farmers on the West Island produce vegetables delivered on a weekly basis in the city, and thousands of people grow vegetables, fruit and herbs on balconies, rooftops, in alleys, and back and front yards.

The report, called The state of urban agriculture in Montreal, is the first to look at the extent of agricultural activities on the island. It was prepared for public hearings into urban agriculture by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal that are to begin Tuesday night in the Ahuntsic/Cartierville borough.

The 54-page document traces the history of agriculture in Montreal from the Iroquois who raised vegetables along the banks of the St. Lawrence River as early as 1,000 AD to the groundbreaking Ahuntsic rooftop greenhouse that produces 25 varieties of vegetables and herbs, enough to feed several hundred people every week.

Montreal has 95 community gardens, with more than 12,000 gardeners working a total of 26 hectares of land in 16 of the city’s 19 boroughs. Another 70 collective gardens are maintained by the city or groups such as community organizations, schools and tenants’ associations.

There has been an explosion in interest in urban agriculture in Montreal recently, the report says. There are long waiting lists for community-garden plots, and most of the 70 collective gardens were created in the past five years.
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