Montreal's food banks reap rewards from bountiful harvest at Botanical Garden

Horticulturists at the Montreal Botanical Garden have harvested more than 2,300 bins of fresh produce this summer for the city's food banks.

Doubling production of vegetable and fruit gardens this summer benefits 4 local non-profit groups

Montreal Botanical Garden donates vegetable harvest to city's food banks

2 years ago
Duration 1:53
Horticulturalists at the Montreal Botanical Garden doubled their output of fresh produce this year. They are donating the harvest to those in need.

The team at the Montreal Botanical Garden has been busy this summer, harvesting more than 2,300 bins of fresh produce for the city's food banks.

The project was launched in the spring when the pandemic-spurred economic shutdown cost people their livelihoods and, in turn, put a heavy burden on food banks, which suddenly had long lines forming at their doors.

Horticulturists expanded the garden's vegetable patch from 1,100 to 1,800 square-metres, allowing them to double the usual amount of produce they donate each year.

They chose squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and other plants that grow in abundance to ensure there would be plenty to donate. 

"It was very demanding physically for the back. But, in general, it was very satisfying. It was really a summer like no other," said Isabelle Paquin, a horticulturist with the garden.

Anne Charpentier, director of the Botanical Garden, said the Edible Garden is usually a display of a wide variety of vegetables. This year, the focus was on productivity and four organizations are benefiting from the harvest.

"It is wonderful that we can really produce and provide them with fresh vegetables twice a week," she said.

Charpentier said it was an initiative of the garden's horticulturists, who early on in the pandemic wanted to respond to the demand for affordable, healthy food.

Part of city's vision for urban agriculture

The City of Montreal soon got involved as elected officials were searching for a way to offer food banks more fresh produce.

"At the beginning of the crisis, we realized there were a lot of people in Montreal who lost their jobs and were more vulnerable," said Coun. Laurence Lavigne Lalonde.

Lalonde is the executive committee member in charge of urban agriculture and Space for Life, a museum district in the city's east end that includes the Botanical Garden and the Biodome.

She said the city did a lot to help Montreal's homeless population weather the storm, "but we decided we could also help people get access to fresh food."

"We believe the city will have a bigger role to play in food security in the years to come," said Lalonde. "We are right now working on a vision for urban agriculture."

That vision will include community gardens and farms on the West Island, she said, as the city looks to a future fraught with climate change.

With files from Radio-Canada's Marie Isabelle Rochon

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