Hundreds of Le Sud-Ouest residents get their hands on free plants and soil

Click to play video: 'Gardening being encouraged in Montreal’s Sud-Ouest'
Gardening being encouraged in Montreal’s Sud-Ouest
Residents in Montreal's Le Sud-Ouest borough lined up in the rain Saturday to get free plants. As Global's Cora MacDonald reports, the initiative aims to encourage residents to garden; not only to beautify the neighbourhood, but also to improve access to fresh foods – May 26, 2018

Hundreds of Le Sud-Ouest borough residents lined up on Saturday morning between 9 a.m. and noon in order to indulge in the free plants and soil being handed out to them by the city.

Despite the weather, they flocked to one of four handout stations located in Little Burgundy, Saint-Henri,  Ville-Émard and Pointe-Saint-Charles.

“I like the smell,” a Ville-Émard resident said. “You know, you wake up in the morning and you know you have the fragrance in the air, especially on a wet day.”

With a simple proof of address, urbanites were able to pick up a variety of vegetation.

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“We have all kinds of plants. We have four different types of annual plants, flowers. We have two different perenials, and we have tomatoes, cucumbers and we have herbs like basil and oregano,” Pauline Cornier, a coordinator for Eco-qartier, the organization behind the project, told Global News.

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Cornier added the initiative has been around for more than a decade and aims to help Montrealers learn about plants and how to grow them.

“We are here to take care of all of the logistics,” Cornier said, “To also tell everyone about it but also be here and make sure that we have volunteers, who are actually usually residents from each neighborhood to come and help us out and give away the flowers to their neighborhoods.”

Though most of the volunteers were in fact locals, one volunteer in particular came all the way from Jacksonville, Florida with a group of seven others from his church to help out at the Little Burgundy location.

“You go back and you compare that to where you are from and you see there is not a lot of difference between us so a lot of things that we are concerned about in our community are the same concerns here,” David Fann said. “But also, we learn from your community on things that we could better in our own.”

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A woman who owns a parcel of land in a Little Burgundy community garden said she’s happy with the array of greenery.

“I’m really excited to see the diversity of what they’ve got and I think I’m going to put some on my balcony also.”

But Cornier said it’s not just about beautifying the neighborhood and teaching people proper gardening rules.

She said a veritable food desert makes living in that part of the city extra challenging for some.

“A lot of residents west of Saint-Henri don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. If they are elderly or not very mobile, it’s really a whole organization to get fruits and vegetables.”

The coordinator believes this program is essential to this particular neighborhood but said the plant distribution does take place in other boroughs across Montreal.

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