Montreal Island, the core of Greater Montreal, used to be mostly covered by agricultural areas (including some of Quebec’s best farmland), but as the city expanded and its population grew further, agriculture got ever more marginalized. According to “Metropolitan Natures: Environmental Histories of Montreal,” by Stéphane Castonguay and Michèle Dagenais, agriculture was still present in some parts of Montreal Island as recently as the 1950s, surviving mostly by cultivating specific produce such as fruit for the Montreal urban market. Farms became progressively smaller in the process, and were more intensively cultivated than other Quebec farms.
Agriculture effectively disappeared from Montreal Island in the last quarter of the 20th century to make way for further development; to add insult to injury, many people have perceived whatever vacant agricultural land remains as waiting to be developed. However, according to the 2004 Montreal Master Plan, some land in the western end of the island has been designated a permanent agricultural zone by the Quebec government. Much of that zone is occupied not by actual working farms, but rather by a university experimental farm, ecomuseum, arboretum, part of a regional park, and golf courses, as well as an agricultural park. The lands within that zone (just over 2000 hectares, or 5000 acres) are set aside to:
● Preserve the rural character;
● Promote agricultural tourism;
● Improve farming activities which had until then been marginal in those areas – lately, there has been a revival in organic farm activity;
● Maintain a sustainable and viable local food system.
Small-scale and low-impact market organic farming is the best kind of agricultural land to be preserved so close to an urban centre, both because of an increasing demand for local and organic produce, and because landscapes from such farms enhance property values, provide wildlife habitat, and reduce urban heat islands. An example of efforts to preserve farmland is provided by a local environmental non-profit group, the Senneville Agricultural Group, inside the agricultural zone.
Do you think that agricultural land should be preserved near major urban areas? If so, how? What kind of farming should be practised there?
Credits: Images and documents linked to source.