From left to right: Declan Rankin Jardin of Alvéole, Tereska Gesing of Urban Seedling, Cameron Stiff of Compost Montreal, Robyn Rees and Loic Freeman-Lavoie of the Hudson Land Trust.
by Hélène Montpetit
On Saturday, February 13th, the Concordia Food Coalition held its third annual Transitions Conference, bringing together Montreal food sovereignty activists to discuss issues pertaining to food policy, food production, land use and waste management. Among the encouraging news shared was a nascent collaboration toward building a more cohesive, sustainable food system for Greater Montreal.
If you are like most people, you don’t give food systems much thought. You shop once a week and pick up missing items as needed. You mumble about price increases but the shelves are well stocked so, as far as you can tell, the system is working. Had you attended Concordia Transitions 2016 last weekend you may have come away with a different view.
According to keynote speaker Diana Bronson of Food Secure Canada our current system does not provide food equity, safety, or sustainability. Her organization’s policy paper Resetting the Table: A People’s Food Policy for Canada reports that roughly 3.9 million Canadians go hungry every day and that as much as 60% of our food is nutrient-poor and over-processed. Food Secure Canada is only one of several organisations working to change these statistics. From managing waste to ensuring the availability of nutritious, locally produced food, several Montreal groups strive to improve our food system.
A few years ago Stephen McLeod began collecting his Saint-Henri neighbour’s table scraps and turning them into quality compost. Now he heads Compost Montreal, a sustainable waste management service with up-to-the-minute expertise that, among other things, is helping devise the City’s sustainable development strategy.
Verdun resident Tereska Gesing started growing an organic garden in her back yard while supporting others in their efforts to produce organic food. Her business, Urban Seedling, has since expanded to serve hundreds of urban dwellers and to help create gardens for area schools and businesses. The company also offers regular workshops.
Concordia graduate student Robyn Rees started the Hudson Food Collective to expand the local food movement through skill and knowledge sharing. After assessing the potential of her own back yard she grew curious about how much of the agricultural land in her community was actually being used to produce food. Ms. Rees was instrumental in bringing together soil and compost specialists, academics, researchers, farmers, urban gardeners, and community groups, effectively fueling the synergy currently inspiring the collaborative movement toward an integrated system.
A vibrant network
During their presentations, Concordia Transitions 2016 panelists Satoshi Ikeda of the University’s Sociology and Anthropology Department and Ana-Liisa Anuio of the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability stressed the importance of new systems embodying post-capitalist values. This thinking is completely in line with the collaborative mindset of Montreal food systems entrepreneurs. Not only are these changemakers intent on closing the loop between soil health, food production-distribution, and waste management, they intend to create favourable socio-economic conditions in the process.
Among several initiatives already under way is Compost Montreal’s collaboration with local farmers and with Urban Seedling to ensure local growers have access to high quality fertilizer. The Hudson Food Collective has partnered with Transition NDG and the Concordia Food Coalition, among others, to create the Hudson Land Trust, a project designed to reclaim agricultural land for use in food production. Driven by Hudson citizens, the vision for the Land Trust is to integrate educational, economic, and social components.
Supporting positive change
The groups mentioned here are only a sample of several Greater Montreal organisations providing positive solutions to the challenges presented by peak oil, climate change, and economic strife. If you like the idea of having nutritious, locally produced food available to you while also doing your part to ensure your community’s economic health, do consider supporting their work. Their commitment and collaborative approach bode well for the future.
To find out more about, take part in, or support organisations at work in and around Montreal, please visit Concordia Food Coalition’s Montreal Online Sustainable Foodmap at http://www.concordiafoodcoalition.com/food-in-montreal/
Are there food sovereignty groups in your area? We would love to hear about your projects in the comment space below.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts!