Agriculture in the city, a way of contributing to the ecological transition

The Jardin botanique is actually leading a pilot project of urban chicken coop.
Credit: Espace pour la vie (Julie Corbeil Walsh)
Le Jardin botanique mène actuellement un projet-pilote de poulailler urbain.
  • Le Jardin botanique mène actuellement un projet-pilote de poulailler urbain.
  • Le programme Jardins-jeunes du Jardin botanique est un bon exemple d’agriculture urbaine.
  • Planter des arbres et arbustes fruitiers tels que l’amélanchier est un bon exemple de pratique d’agriculture urbaine.
  • Oeufs frais provenant du poulailler urbain du Jardin botanique.
Agriculture in the city, a way of contributing to the ecological transition

Contrary to what we may think, urban agriculture is neither a new concept nor a new trend. Take, for example, the Youth Gardens, those little educational gardens tended by children on the Jardin botanique site. They’ve been there since 1938! Meaning more than 80 years! But what exactly are we talking about when we refer to urban agriculture?

Urban agriculture, what is it?

There are a number of definitions, so how do we decide? Here’s a very uncomplicated one: “Urban agriculture is quite simply the cultivation of edible plants or the raising of animals in a city.” But although this definition is completely accurate, it fails to reflect the diversity of agricultural practices.

Urban agriculture brings together a diversity of remarkable practices, and it’s a concept that goes well beyond urban vegetable gardens.
Here are examples of urban-agriculture practices:

  • planting fruit trees and fruit-bearing shrubs around the city as well as initiatives relative to the practice
  • growing mushrooms at home
  • taking part in an urban community chicken coop project
  • practicing apiculture and growing nectar-producing plants
  • participating in a collective or community garden
  • raising insects for food
  • creating gardens on roofs or somewhere in the many green alleys of Montréal
  • creating or taking part in educational garden projects (in schools, hospitals, residences and businesses)
  • growing a garden in pots on the balcony
  • having a vegetable garden in the yard

This diversity of practices offers a broad range of benefits for the urban community at every level – the environmental, the social and the economic.

Why urban agriculture?

At the heart of these various practices, the central mission is to reconnect city dwellers with nature in a lasting way, and do so while we get closer to our food system and foster healthy lifestyle habits.

Moreover, the City of Montréal has submitted the Climate Plan 2020-2030, which consists of a proposed series of actions designed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Were you aware? Among the 46 actions proposed, there’s one that deals specifically with the development of urban agriculture, because this one, in all its diversity, contributes to the ecological transition that we’re hoping for.

Urban agriculture is recognized as a lever in diminishing the consequences of climate change and enabling us to make that drastic and necessary shift to ecological transition. In addition, it plays an equally important role in promoting food security for urban residents. What more could we ask for than a supply of local fruit and vegetables transported over short distances, and which moreover creates social ties among different communities? All this to increase our resilience to change.

How to take part in the ecological transition?

One of the best actions you can take for the environment is to grow a garden, no matter how big. Whether on a small plot of land that you share with a number of people, whether it’s in a pot or in the ground, whether it’s a curb extension or the square around a tree, the scope of your project isn’t what matters: the most important thing is to take action! From that point you become an agent of change with a positive influence on people around you to follow your lead. You’re taking care of the earth, and that will take care of you in return.

Chickens in town?

Keeping chickens in town is an urban-agriculture project that more and more city dwellers are finding attractive. Considering the scale of that sort of project and the associated responsibilities, collective chicken coops – meaning henhouses maintained by several people, even by different families or groups of individuals – are interesting and stimulating projects to introduce. Some educational and collective chicken coops have been in place in the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie borough for a few years, like the one run by La Maisonnette des parents and the little farm located at the Basile-Patenaude community garden. The educational benefits of these community projects are considerable. They allow people to reclaim the foundations of our food supply while sharing the responsibilities among participants. It’s with this in mind that the Jardin botanique is leading a pilot project this summer.

Once your project idea has been conceived and you’ve brought it to life (or planted it!), I bet nature will have more than one lesson to teach you.
The relationship that you develop with her will lead you to consider nature as a gift that needs to be cherished.

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