Credit: The City Farm School Blog

Farming in the City

By Trisha Sanchez; International Business, ’19

On an Autumn Wednesday, our Urban Agriculture (ENP 300) class visited the City Farm School located on Concordia University’s Loyola campus. While we were there, we took a tour of the various types of gardens they had growing. They had grapes, tomatoes, basil, mullein, potatoes, and guar gum. We also were given a useful tip for a natural pest controller. Tobacco plants can be used as trap plants in a garden, and one stalk of tobacco they had growing we saw had dozens of bugs and insect larvae captured on every single leaf. It looked to be very efficient and more environmentally friendly than spray pesticides.

We also learned about building homemade greenhouses. Using some pipe and some rebar to hold it in place, you bend the frames over the plant rows in a dome structure, so that you can hang a plastic tarp over the plant row, which will work to drastically trap heat inside and raise the temperature by a difference of several degrees. Another thing we learned on this particular trip is how to more speedily compost certain areas of ground. Using an opaque tarp (that is minimally breathable), you can use bricks to wrap it over a plot of land, smothering any remaining plants and quickening the decomposition process. This one we were told might take a bit of practice, as if the tarp is not quite right or there is not quite enough smothering pressure, it may take longer to complete. Students wishing to enter the urban agriculture world enroll here for internships, varying in lengths of 3, 6, and 9 months.

There is also a garden on the opposite side maintained by the students that exclusively grows medicinal herbs, such as the mullein we saw. As of 2015, Loyola City Farm School had recorded 34 students as being enrolled, and the gardens have doubled in their size. The school itself was originally begun by a group of Concordia students working on an urban garden for their intern project. The collective gardens section has 6 plots which are maintained by groups of 5 students at a time. One of this organization’s current biggest challenges is Montreal’s regulations on urban and city farming. As a farm on city property, Loyola City Farm School, and other urban gardens like it, must remain a strictly non-profit organization.

The People’s Potato Garden that we also toured takes the vegetables grown and donates them to Concordia’s soup kitchen organization. They also sometimes will give the other fruits of their labor out to the volunteers who work there. The three main goals of this organization, among others, has primarily remained a) organic food growing; b) understanding and addressing food security and food sovereignty; and c) creating sustainable communities and community engagement.

With all elements of the trip that day put into consideration, I would say that best part of our visit to this garden everyone would agree likely agree to was getting to eat the grapes.