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LEADING GREENER LIVES

July 27, 2017

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The urban agriculture project in Les Jardins Gamelin includes some clever twists and a social conscience, and it’s a leader in its field. We spoke with Agathe Moreau, the urban agriculture coordinator for Sentier Urbain, who told us about the virtues of urban agriculture and its benefits for the community.

WHAT’S THE ORIGIN OF THE URBAN AGRICULTURE PROJECT IN LES JARDINS GAMELIN?

We were approached by La Pépinière and the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership. They wanted to add greenery to Place Émilie-Gamelin, and help out the space’s existing users in the process. Our work in Les Jardins Gamelin is grounded in our desire to make urban agriculture more accessible to everyone, and to mobilize communities to take steps to help it spread. Given the kinds of initiatives we’re usually involved in, we designed a green project with a strong social element, focused on being unifying and inclusive.

HOW DID YOU APPROACH THE PROJECT?

In all our projects, we strive to bring people and nature closer together, with nature as the focal point. That’s our starting point. In the city, people living in disadvantaged areas or precarious situations have limited access to nature. We want to make up for that “nature deficit.” So we designed a participatory, self-service kitchen garden and an accompanying program of activities.

WHAT KINDS OF ACTIVITIES DO YOU OFFER?

Every Tuesday we give guided tours of the gardens followed by a talk, and every Sunday we host workshops on various practical topics. There are seven theme gardens in Les Jardins Gamelin, from kitchen gardens to hanging gardens, balcony gardens and more. And all our harvesting is self-serve. Everyone is welcome to pick some vegetables or collect herbs for their next meal. There are always facilitators around to offer help and answer questions.

HOW ARE YOU HELPING HOMELESS PEOPLE AND THE PLACE ÉMILIE-GAMELIN “REGULARS”?

Working with the social organization Présence Compassion, we launched a pre-employment program. The program helps people in precarious situations by paying them to work in the gardens. They feel useful, get to participate in civic life and improve their own living conditions. People are always amazed to discover that they can freely pick fruits or vegetables or do a little gardening. In the Jardins, they feel welcome and respected. It was important to us to earn their trust. Now they have a strong sense of attachment to the gardens – they’ve become “their” gardens.

These are small but important wins for the people who participate, and their work helps them reintegrate into mainstream society. The program has benefits that go well beyond Les Jardins Gamelin, and we see those benefits every day.

SENTIER URBAIN’S ACTIVITIES FOR AUGUST: GARDEN EXPLORATION AND URBAN AGRICULTURE WORKSHOPS

Garden exploration – every Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. (in French)

Participants learn about methods for growing various plants, as well as their medicinal and culinary properties. The activity includes a tour of the gardens with a Sentier Urbain facilitator, followed by a presentation on several topics related to urban agriculture.

Workshops on various practical topics – every Sunday from 11 a.m. to noon (in French)

July 30: The living soil
August 6: Fruit trees in the city
August 30: Urban beekeeping

Note: tours and workshops are held in French.

Les Jardins Gamelin
Until October 15

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