One third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are produced by industrial agriculture. Cities depend heavily on imported food products that travel long distances. Conventional means of production and transportation are not always environmentally friendly and contribute significantly to GHG emissions. Encouraging local agricultural production, marketed locally, can have a favourable impact on the quantities of GHG produced. In addition, small-scale agricultural production in cities often uses environmentally friendly methods such as composting, recycling and waste recovery, creating low-carbon systems.
Developed in this spirit, the City of Montréal’s Urban Agriculture Strategy aims to increase the number of agricultural enterprises and the area cultivated within its boundaries.
In 2021, Montréal had 120 ha of cultivated area and about 40 agricultural businesses. The city has set targets of increasing the area cultivated by 40 hectares and adding 15 new agricultural businesses within the next five years.
Climate change is already being felt in our cities. In recent years we have witnessed floods, high winds and even prolonged heat waves that have had a significant impact on agricultural production.
Montréal devotes 10-15% of its 10-year capital investment budget to dealing with the hazards of climate change. Many projects can benefit from this source of funding, including the installation of irrigation systems in community gardens, greening projects, and tree planting in areas vulnerable to heat islands.
One of four strategic directions of the Urban Agriculture Strategy is to encourage and support citizen education, awareness-raising, training and skills development through workshops on cultivation techniques, choice of seeds and plants, and biological control of various pests. Several specialized organizations are given financial support to conduct these workshops.
One of the actions put forward by the Strategy is to support initiatives that promote research and knowledge transfer. The city has already awarded CRETAU (Carrefour de recherche et d’expertise in agriculture urbaine, the Urban Agriculture Research and Expertise Interchange) $150,000 to conduct research, develop solutions adapted to the urban context and disseminate information in the form of guides, training and technical datasheets.
The City’s project evaluation process incorporates criteria related to the vulnerability of populations to climate hazards such as heat islands and their resilience to heat waves.
Ecological urban agriculture, including permaculture techniques and other biodiversity-friendly production methods, is central to this strategy. The City of Montréal and its partners will implement several concrete actions to develop ecological urban agriculture that responds to environmental concerns. In addition, the city will promote the production of local, quality compost and facilitate its distribution to gardeners. Boroughs can receive financial support through the City’s recently launched Community and Public Gardens Development and Rehabilitation Program to install composters and water harvesting systems in community gardens.