This summer I will quantify P cycling in UA on the island of Montreal. Montreal is a good first study site because I speak both languages and I am familiar with the city and the UA initiatives and research teams working on UA.
The island has an (rural) agrarian history, as well as a UA history with community gardens since the early 1900’s (there will be a great master’s thesis published on this soon). Over the past few years there has been a lot of attention on how to better support, coordinate, and expand UA initiatives in Montreal from the community, from research institutes, and from policy makers.
In 2011, the Groupe de Travail en Agriculture Urbaine (GTAU) collected 29,000 signatures to get a public consultation about UA in the city through the Office de la Consultation Public de Montreal (OCPM). This was the first time citizens (and not a company) used this right to ask for a public consultation). The OCPM held the consultations in May and June 2012 and on the 3rd of October 2012 they published a 147 page report. The report summarized the oral and written presentations by community groups, municipality departments and citizens about UA in Montreal and also presented many recommendations for the City of Montreal. In response, the city announced they were going to create a permanent committee on urban agriculture where both selected community partners and city officials would co-jointly create and implement a plan to support UA on the island. Although this is far from the steps taken in other Canadian cities, like the Toronto food policy council or efforts in Vancouver, the committee is still a step in the right direction. I hope that the committee will permit a systematic organization of efforts in UA and the integration of good science in both practices and in planning.
Concurrent to political developments mentioned above, on-going research and community efforts have gained visibility and momentum over the past few years. The University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) has both a research lab (AU lab) and a student organization (the CRAPAUD) leading many research and outreach efforts on UA in the city. The Quebec Center for Biodiversity Science (QCBS) has also contributed to better documentation of trees in Montreal, which I think is relevant to UA because we can map fruit trees. There is also a central calendar to share events relevant to UA in Montreal, including workshops, conferences, movies and much more . A radio show every week dedicated to UA. And tools (for example le guide du potager urbain and other websites) to help urban residents start and manage their own garden.
Its worth mentioning that the CRAPAUD have a cool website where people can register their garden (so we can find-out how much area is under cultivation in Montreal). Eventually it would be great to better understand yields and production of existing gardens like the open community-based research project Farming Concrete and better understand the available space for UA like the Urban Design Lab at Columbia University did for NYC and the “croud-sourcing” data website can gather is a step in the right direction (and has an added advantage to allow for public “buy-in” to research). I think my research, and those of my collaborators will also contribute to UA quantification efforts and thus better recommendations.
There are approximately 75 collective gardens, 97 community gardens, 7 universities and colleges, 6 businesses, 10 farm producers and half of Montreal households that say they practice some form of UA. I am excited to start quantifying flows in this system that is in the midst of putting in place a political structure that could greatly benefit from such research.