16th September 2013 Montreal, Canada

The love and peas revolution

I’ve noticed a fascinating trend in my neighbourhood. The streets are home to more and more sidewalk containers branding the logo – Free Food – (“Nourriture à Partager, Servez-vous!”) where fresh vegetables, fine herbs and small fruits are free for the taking. At first I thought it was an eccentric idea native to Montreal’s borough “Le Plateau Mont-Royal” but I soon realised that this initiative extends far beyond my corner of the world.

“Nourriture à Partager, Servez-vous!” containers in Montreal.
“Nourriture à Partager, Servez-vous!” containers in Montreal.

Inspired by community efforts started in Todmorden (West Yorkshire, UK), citizens of Montreal, Westmount, Rimouski, Laval, Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke have taken this concept and have proposed a variety of edible plants in public spaces. This year, for example, the lawns of the Quebec Parliament Building, in Quebec City, have been transformed into edible planter projects. They grow cherry tomatoes, artichokes, beans, carrots, medicinal plant, as well as several orchards (cherries, apples and pears), which are available for the “Le Parlementaire” Restaurant and community organisations.

In 2010, Lufa farms achieved a world first: the construction of a commercial rooftop greenhouse, fitted on top of an industrial building in the Montreal borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville. With a little love and patience, it now produces cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, beans, tomatoes, chards, cabbages, potatoes, carrots, garlic, raspberries and blueberries. A second greenhouse is projected for Laval, just north of Montreal.

The initiative in Todmorden started in the spring of 2008when citizens began planting vegetables all over their market town as part of Incredible Edible Todmorden programme. It began with a patch of rhubarb beside a local bus stop and soon spread to graveyards, roundabouts and grassy patches by the side of the road. Since then, the whole town has come to embrace the idea, including the local council, and the initiative is sprouting branches across the region. This widespread involvement in Incredible Edible Todmorden’s food-growing activities have helped create community cohesion, which has had widespread positive impacts,  including a sense of community pride and a reduction in anti-social behaviour. Presently, every school in Todmorden is involved in this initiative and Incredible Edible also promotes food-based learning for the community as a whole – rediscovering lost skills (from growing to cooking) and learning new ones.

The aim of the Incredible Edible programme is to make Todmorden self-sufficient in vegetables, orchard fruits and eggs by 2018 and to rely mainly on local sources of meat.

Currently, the Incredible edible website offers a wealth of information on everything from beekeeping to foraging, uses of medicinal plants, jam-making and finding locally-produced eggs. Incredible edible is reminiscent of the themes approached in “Small is Beautiful” essay, written in the early 1970s by the British economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher. His book discusses the importance of living in a society on a human-small scale with sustainable use of natural resources.

Todmorden has led the way in creating a sustainable community and their efforts have already made headlines all over the globe. Worldwide concerns about food security, health and climate changes have fostered certain communities, such as Todmorden, to change the landscape of cities; replacing geraniums and petunias in public areas with rhubarb, carrots, parsley, strawberries, and raspberries. As a result of all this effort, people not only enjoy eating fresh and locally produced food, but they also experience sustainability and science!

I think these initiatives are simply eggcellent!

1 comment on “The love and peas revolution

Comments are closed.

About Mario Rivero-Huguet

Based in Montreal, I cover Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces. My focus is on aerospace & space, as well as life sciences and clean technologies. This year I’ll be working…

Based in Montreal, I cover Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces. My focus is on aerospace & space, as well as life sciences and clean technologies. This year I’ll be working with scientists in the UK and Canada to foster international research in those areas. I’ll also work with UK Trade & Investment to promote commercial opportunities for science & tech companies. In my spare time I enjoy outdoor activities; alternative films and eating (not cooking) French cuisine. Follow me on Twitter @mriverohuguet