Growth is good (and delicious) with urban agriculture project in NDG

The Incredible Edibles project in NDG is gearing up for its seventh season, setting up planters and small gardens in busy public spaces so passersby can help themselves to fresh produce whenever they'd like.

Community-driven project to grow produce in public spaces expands

A volunteer waters an edible garden in front of a fire station on Somerled Avenue in Montreal's west end. Passersby are welcome to grab a fresh snack on the go. (Submitted by Transition NDG)

A well-loved urban gardening project in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is expanding operations this year, moving into NDG Park and putting out the call for green-thumbed volunteers.

The Incredible Edibles project is gearing up for its seventh season, setting up planters and small gardens in busy public spaces so passersby can help themselves to fresh produce whenever they'd like.

Jane Barr, coordinator of the Incredible Edibles project, said the garden is about more than leafy greens.

"It's really something that brings the community together," she said.

"I would tell my husband, 'I'm just going to go and water. I'll only be gone for 20 minutes,'" she said. "Then I come back two hours later because I had conversations with people on the street about the project. About food. About anything."

Initiated more than a decade ago in Europe, Incredible Edibles projects have been cropping up in communities around the world. Their goal is to reclaim public space and return food production to the cityscape, with veggie-packed planters and plots that people can pluck from on the go — taking just enough to preserve the life of the plant.

Urban gardeners grow bright yellow sunflowers, collard greens, bean poles, carrots, mint, basil and tomatoes — plants of all types, serving not just as a source of food, but as an eye-catching display that beautifies neighbourhoods.

Incredible Edibles is an initiative launched by Transition NDG in the organization's ongoing effort to create a resilient neighbourhood built on sustainable practices. (Submitted by Transition NDG)

Building community one garden at a time

The project was initiated by Transition NDG in 2012, an organization focused on building resilient communities that learn and live sustainable practices.

Beyond growing food, Barr said, Incredible Edibles "really is a community-builder."

Volunteers replace plants as needed, keeping the gardens going and, while they work, they speak with people about the project. 

There are also signs within the small urban gardens, explaining how the system works.

"Some people take too much. Some people take the whole plant," she said. "Some people are really shy to pick. We don't really have problems either way."

This year, the initiative is moving into NDG Park, known to many locals as Girouard Park, and the hope is that more and more residents will get rid of their front lawns and replace them with shared gardens.

Residents are encouraged to sample the veggies as they pass by, grabbing just enough to preserve the plant, but savour the fresh edible plants. (Submitted by Transition NDG)

The group needs volunteers to water each edible location, said Incredible Edibles team member Kathy Aitken.

"The project is about a lot more than growing food," she said.

"It's really beautiful that we can come together and create a project — to bring something new in the world that involves seeds and life and is very life sustaining."

Volunteers needed to help water, tend gardens

The group is reaching out through social media and other means in an effort to get residents involved. Some come from across the city to help out because they believe so strongly in the idea of creating neighbourhoods that can grow their own food.

Coun. Peter McQueen welcomes the initiative in his NDG district.

"This summer we will see what Incredible Edibles, one of the partners of Les Amis du Parc NDG, can do in some temporary movable planters in Girouard Park, with an eye to potentially expanding the program next summer," he said.

Coun. Christian Arseneault, representing Loyola, feels the same way.

"I think it's a great project that brings people from the community together and I'm glad to hear it's expanding," he said.

"The social benefits in particular for participants are what make it a worthwhile endeavour."

Find information about volunteering and events happening May 25 and 26 here or by contacting Transition NDG.


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