At ground level, it’s hard to see much else, which is more the pity, because the city is so much more than just asphalt and concrete. But seen from above, this city’s beauty is unveiled. Between cement scars and concrete buildings, another city is revealed: an agricultural city!
Urban agriculture took root in Montreal sometime around 1940, when Canada entered the war. The municipal council asked Charles Nagy, the co-founder of the Société d’horticulture de LaSalle and, most likely, of the first community garden on the island (it still exists today at 9619 Notre-Dame Boulevard), to help the population become food self-sufficient during those uncertain times.
The enthusiasm for urban gardens has grown ever since. Today, Montreal boasts 137 hectares of urban agriculture initiatives. Some 7,000 amateur gardeners also share the 97 spaces designated by the City as community gardens. Statistics reveal that close to 42% of Montrealers practice one form or another of urban agriculture, and restaurants are following suit, with a growing number cultivating their own vegetables and herbs on rooftops, terraces and patios. Incidentally, this trend has been observed in a number of other countries.
In fact, the greater Montreal region (a 100 km radius) is known for having the largest concentration of agri-businesses in Quebec. This is explained by the quality of the soil, the high population density and proximity to the American border.
It’s easy to understand why Montreal is blessed come harvest time, when the city’s gardens brim over with variety, freshness, colour and flavour, all of which subsequently makes its way to hotel and restaurant tables as well as market stalls.