Saturday, 12 May 2012

Urban agriculture: Public fair in Montreal gets dialogue started

BY SARAH GILBERT, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE
MONTREAL – “There’s great potential for urban agriculture in Montreal,” said Walid Touabti of the non-profit Action Communiterre in N.D.G. “But if you look at Toronto, Vancouver and European cities you can see that we’re a little behind the curve. We need to develop our potential.”
Last year, Touabti and more than 29,000 other Montrealers signed a petition demanding a public consultation on the issue, with the goal of updating city laws on urban farming. The dialogue officially begins Saturday at 10 a.m. with a public fair at Maisonneuve Market, 4445 Ontario St. E., near Metro Viau. Forty gardening groups and green businesses will present their projects and offer advice as well as tools and services for growing food in the city. The fair runs until 4 p.m.
“I’ll be talking about the links between urban agriculture, collective gardens and food security,” said Touabti who is giving a talk Saturday at 11:30. Other events include a 2 o’clock workshop on worm composting by a team from Plant Sciences at McGill’s Macdonald Campus, which will also present an information kiosk on seeds and seed germination.
“This public consultation on urban agriculture is unprecedented,” said Amanda Sheedy, coordinator at Food Secure Canada and board member of community organization Santropol Roulant. “The rest of Canada is going to be watching Montreal.
“I think we’re all hoping it’ll push the agenda forward on urban agriculture and that the city will start to see ways it can support the movement rather than being a barrier to innovative aspects such as urban beekeeping, orchards and chickens. We could put Montreal on the map by creating a vibrant, greener city, one that feeds itself,” said Sheedy who plans to attend today’s fair with her kids.
Tereska Gesing will be there, handing out flyers for her vegetable gardening service, Urban Seedling, but she also hopes to make deeper connections. “I want to be more involved in urban agriculture from a political standpoint. I signed the petition asking for this public consultation. Now I’m going to find out what I can do for the movement,” she said. “Urban farming is a great way to address climate change and food security. It’s the way of the future.”
There will be a daylong conference on urban agriculture at the Palais des congrès on May 17 and public hearings are slated for June in various Montreal neighbourhoods.
For more information, go to montrealacultiver.com
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