English: A small urban agriculture project in ...

English: A small urban agriculture project in Amsterdam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Côte-Saint-Luc project aims to connect people with their food – and with each other

BY ANTHONY HOUSEFATHER AND TANYA ABRAMOVITCH, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE

APRIL 23, 2013

MONTREAL – Imagine strolling through a park and plucking a ripe fruit off a tree as you pass by. In the not-too-distant future, this will be reality in the city of Côte-Saint-Luc. In the years to come, however, it will probably be a common sight in most cities across North America. Even in climates like ours.

Edible landscaping is just one element of urban agriculture, which is the practice of growing food in or around a city. On Thursday of last week, Côte-Saint-Luc launched its urban-agriculture initiative, which we’ve dubbed Côte-Saint-Luc Grown.

Our goal is to better connect people with their food, and also with one another. Food is one language that everyone has in common, and therefore activities that revolve around it are especially useful in growing not just healthy people, but healthy communities. Unlike other levels of government, municipalities have a unique opportunity to help shape and improve the habits of their residents because we interact with them on a daily basis. We provide recreational activities — and now in Côte-Saint-Luc we will be providing nutritional ones as well.

While we may be first in Quebec to adopt a Food Charter and a comprehensive urban-agriculture program, we are not pioneers. We are following in the footsteps of San Francisco, Toronto, New York and Todmorden, a village of 17,000 in the United Kingdom. Pam Warhurst co-founded Incredible Edible Todmorden, a food partnership that encourages community engagement through local growing. Watch her TED Talk presentation at Ted.com and you’ll understand how urban agriculture can have profound and positive effects on a community of any size.

Accessible to all, urban agriculture is the epitome of resilience and sustainability. Anyone, young or old, can participate and reap its numerous benefits, most importantly improved health and wellness, food cost savings, and social interaction. The environmental benefits and economic benefits are also significant.

During the Second World War, 40 per cent of what people ate was grown in their backyards; there is no reason we cannot attain that figure again. Municipalities can support urban agriculture by providing access to land, offering gardening courses, planting edible landscapes, and encouraging farmers’ markets, among other things. In Côte-Saint-Luc, we will be doing all these things and more in 2013.

Somewhere along the line, widespread knowledge about planting and gardening was lost. Things our great-grandparents knew about growing tomatoes or basil didn’t make to our generation. Cities can re-establish that lost knowledge, and make sure locally grown fruits and vegetables are part of our future. Cities needn’t be the size of Toronto to embark in urban agriculture; they just need to recognize its value to the communities of not just today, but tomorrow as well.

For more information, visit CSLGrown.org.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette