MONTREAL – It looks like an abandoned park, with scraps of machinery and green hills as far as the eye can see.
In fact, the Bois-de-la-Roche Agriculture Park in Senneville has been this way for years.
That’s all about to change this summer.
“One out of six Montrealers doesn’t have food on its plate enough to satisfy their hunger on a daily basis,” said André Beaulieu, spokesperson for Regroupement Des Magasins-Partage De L’Ile De Montréal (RMPIM).
Come June, the park will be busy with farmers, who will be hard at work growing fresh, local, organic produce.
It’s all part of the Cultivating Hope project to feed Montreal’s poor.
“Food banks, in the middle of the winter, about 36 per cent of them don’t have access to fresh vegetables,” said Beaulieu.
It’s a unique initiative, and one the city of Montreal said it’s proud to be a part of.
“These vegetables will be used by the le Regroupement des Magasins-Partage. The families that need this kind of support will receive that,” said Réal Ménard, Montreal executive committee member for sustainable development.
“That’s two concerns. The concern about sustainable development and to fight against poverty.”
The project will start small, with just under six hectares of land being used to cultivate produce.
By 2019, organizers are hoping to transform up to 24 hectares, creating about 250,000 bags of vegetables.
“It’s like 55 football yards basically combined all together,” explained Beaulieu.
“It’s going to be a huge market, huge production.”
Montreal owns the land and has already invested $400,000.
The government of Quebec will also subsidize part of the project.
Come next fall, half the harvest will be sent to food banks, who will distribute the veggies to families in need.
The other half will be sold through wholesalers.
“We hope that it will be completely funded by the produce, by the vegetables that will be sold,” said Beaulieu.
“At the end it’s not going to cost anything to anyone.”
The actual farming will be taken care of by D-3 Pierres, a Pierrefonds group that helps young people find work.
“D-3 Pierres are responsible to exploit this land and they are a non-profit organization,” said Ménard .
“It will be very helpful for the young to understand what is the process to do that.”
The Cultivating Hope project will officially launch at the end of April.