Urban agriculture springs up in Hochelaga

Text and photos by Marilla Steuter-Martin 

DSC_0029In an urban environment where green spaces are sometimes few, Marc-André Toupin believes it is important to use every inch of space available. As a member of CHAPEAU, the Comité d’Hochelaga autour du partage et de l’éducation en agriculture urbaine, he and his group are dedicated to promoting urban agriculture within the borough of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and organizing projects using unused plots of earth.

The group’s most recent project is to try and petition the Société de transport de Montréal to allow the planting of vegetables in the empty planters behind Joliette metro station.

“There’s plenty of interest in the project,” explained Toupin. “We made a petition and in one day we gathered about 300 signatures at the entrance of the metro.”

CHAPEAU has contacted the STM, but as of yet the idea has not received much support.

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Another member, Jacques Bouchard, explained that there is already a company on contract with the STM that takes care of the planters, and that his organization is trying to get in touch with them now.

Bouchard went on to say that despite concerns that a garden planted outside the metro station would be contaminated or vandalized, CHAPEAU is confident this won’t be a problem.

“We will always have this problem: cigarettes [and] garbage,” he said. “We have another project … called ‘Planter Partout’ where we will be planting vegetables in the squares of grass that break up sidewalks.”

DSC_0020Toupin agreed, saying that at the metro station the planters are farther displaced from the sidewalk and would be better protected. He also highlighted the awareness-raising aspect of the plan.

“It’s important to create dialogue in the community about these things instead of just buying your goods at the [grocery store,]” said Toupin.

Bouchard also feels it is important to get the community involved in taking part in the discussion, and in taking care of the neighbourhood for the future.

“This is my borough, I live here. I see the places, the possibilities, the parks and projects,” he said. “All of Montreal is too big. … If I can start on the corner of my street, that’s better.”

All quotes have been translated by the writer from the original French.

With additional reporting by Lindsay Rempel.

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