The Edible Garden : Growing Food in the City

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A portrait of Urban Seedling and Urban Agriculture in Montreal

Inspired and driven by many grass roots movements like green alleyways,  almost 100 community vegetable gardens, and urban farms on the island of Montreal, Urban Seedling sets out to bring the vegetable garden back to peoples back yards, work places and schools.

Urban Seedling is a company in Montreal devoted to helping local citizens set up and maintain organic vegetable gardens, edible landscapes and Urban Clover Lawns in the city.

“Education is a huge part of what we do” says co-founder Shawn Manning. In addition to eating delicious food, fresh-picked steps away from the kitchen door, families are showing their kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews where food comes from, and sharing the magic of watching your dinner come from a simple seed planted in the ground.

Following permaculture principles, Urban Seedling plants fruit trees, berry patches, vegetable gardens and even asparagus and mushrooms. They replace grass lawns with ultra-low maintenance Urban Clover Lawns, and plant herb and edible flower gardens to transform a client’s yard, balcony or rooftop into a simple, beautiful and productive edible paradise all the while encouraging a great biodiversity of heirloom fruit, vegetables, trees and flowers in the city.

In addition to many local Urban Agriculture initiatives in Montreal, like the City Farm School at Concordia University, l’École d’êté en agriculture urbaine at UQAM, Santropol Roulant’s roof top and ground level farms and Cote St. Luc Grown, Urban Seedling aims to put at least a portion of food production back in the hands of the people.

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Montreal, always a contradiction, has many successes as well as many failures in terms of advances in Urban Agriculture. In 2011, 29,068 Montrealers signed a petition to launch a public study of Urban Agriculture in Montreal, which in turn revealed many potential municipal avenues. Montreal has a thriving community garden system with more plots per capita then any other city in Canada, and perhaps the world. These 8195 allotments serve 10, 000 individuals and their families and all have sometimes years-long waiting lists.

The citizens of Montreal are clearly very interested in greening their homes and public spaces, and supporting local food initiatives with dozens of small farmers’ markets popping up throughout the city and the suburbs. The City of Montreal itself, however, is way behind cities like Berlin, New York, Singapore,Vancouver in terms of supporting Urban Agriculture and green roof initiatives both financially and in terms of re-zoning and cutting through complicated bureaucracies to get highlighted projects off of the ground.

The next 5 to 10 years will certainly bear fruit as all the local Montreal actors push to increase the percentage of agriculturally zoned land in production, as well as increase the knowledge base and sensitivity of individual citizens on the importance and benefits food production within city limits.

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Writer Byline: Tereska Gesing is the owner of Urban Seedling [www.urbanseedling.com], an edible landscaping and vegetable gardening service in Montreal. She grows 65 different kinds of vegetables, berries and fruit trees with her husband and two young children in her Verdun backyard. Find out more at www.urbanseedling.com