• John Jantak

Senneville’s Cultivating Hope project brings food to those in need


A field of organically grown cabbages are ready for harvest at the Bois-de-la-Roche agricultural park in Senneville that will help feed needy Montreal area families.

A nondescript farm in Senneville has become a breadbasket for needy families throughout the Island of Montreal after Cultiver l’espoir (Cultivating Hope) said it will deliver 30,000 rutabagas and cabbages to the Moisson Montréal and Sun Youth food banks under the auspices of the Regroupement des Magasins-Partage de l’Île de Montréal (RMPIM), it was announced at a press conference on Tuesday, October 13.

Cultivating Hope is an innovative urban agriculture project that began last spring and is currently considered to be the most important farming initiative of its type in Canada. The project was launched when two hectares of land at Bois-de-la-Roche last year were cleared and cultivated to produce this year’s harvest of organically vegetables that will help feed 15,000 families.

From this modest beginning, Cultivating Hope and RMPIM plan to expand the scope of the project over the next five years by cultivating 24 hectares of land that is expected to produce 550,000 kilograms of vegetables, the equivalent of 250,000 five pound bags.

Dominique Forant, a volunteer representative from L’Oeuvre Léger and the Fondation J.A. DeSève which contributed $90,000 to the Bois-de-la-Roche farming initiative, said the organization donated money to the project because of its importance.

“We review several projects each year and Cultivating Hope was selected because of its innovative farming approach and desire to help families in need,” said Forant. “It’s a great project and we love it. It’s also a project that will become self-sufficient in a few years.”

The farm will also grow carrots next year and beets in 2017. Ground-growing vegetables are the preferred choice because they overwinter well. The project is also aimed at reducing food insecurity which is a growing problem in the area because of the current bleak economy.

“Poor households are spending from 60 to 80 per cent of their income on food, which makes them very vulnerable as food prices rise or their incomes decrease,” said RMPIM Director Sylvie Rochette. “The unemployed, those living on social assistance or working for the minimum wage simply do not have sufficient income to buy a basket of nutritious groceries.”

Réal Ménard, the City of Montreal Executive Committee member responsible for sustainable development, the environment, parks and green spaces, said the city is proud to partner with Cultivating Hope and RMPIM in the project because of its commitment to help feed the needy, which accounts for 25 per cent of the city’s population.

“It’s very important for the City of Montreal because it’s a great opportunity to help families in need,” Ménard told Your Local Journal. “I hope this program will continue to prosper in the next few years. I’m sure that many cities across Canada will be inspired by our initiative.”

For Senneville Mayor Jane Guest, the project has rejuvenated the village’s agricultural past and is glad the municipality is doing its part to help people who are going through a difficult situation.

“The land was donated to Senneville about 20 years ago by its previous owners on the provision that it not be developed but kept as agricultural land,” said Guest. “We’re proud to be able do our part to contribute to this wonderful project.”

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