“It’s the bush, but the peas are ready to harvest,” Marie-Claire tells her comrades.
After weeding the carrot plants, it’s time to take care of the green peas. The birds are chirping as the sun beats down on the field. Something to make you want to go swimming in the lake not far away.
“Here, it’s not a corner of Montreal like the others. It’s the countryside,” says – in front of us amazed by the rural setting – the one who oversees operations, Noah Fisher.
It is indeed hard to believe that such a bucolic enclave exists very close to Highway 40.
We are in Senneville, at the western end of the island of Montreal, in front of Lac des Deux Montagnes and near the Cap-Saint-Jacques nature park.
There are sumptuous mansions along the water, but also some agricultural land, including that of the Roulant farm, which welcomes volunteers from Santropol Roulant three mornings a week, an organization that provides meals on wheels to people in Autonomy loss.
Last Wednesday, Tristian Lee was on his first visit to the farm after volunteering on the organization’s green roof. “It feels good to have both hands in the dirt here,” said the University of Wisconsin PhD student in environmental sociology, who wanted to spend the summer in Montreal to learn more about his urban agriculture projects. . “Montreal is a leader”, assures the one who pleads for greater access to nature for all.
For her part, Marie-Claire Hevor has been a loyal volunteer since the start of the season. For the employee of the City of Montreal, it is not volunteering, but vacation. Her manager agreed to give her one day off a week so she could satisfy a deep craving.
“I felt the call of the earth. I needed it, “says the one who spent her childhood on her grandparents’ farm in Togo.
As we hear more and more about nature’s benefits to body and soul, and increasingly limited access to the land, it’s heartening to know that anyone can volunteer at Roulant farm. You should know that the tasks are adapted to everyone’s abilities and that there is a carpooling system to get there.
Santropol Roulant was founded in 1995 by two former Café Santropol servers.
From meals served at home to a loyal customer who had fractured her hip, the idea of feeding people with reduced mobility was born. From a social inclusion perspective, Christopher Godsall and Keith Fitzpatrick also saw an opportunity to provide work for young people.
Having become an important figurehead in Montreal’s community, the Santropol Roulant – which no longer has any connection with the café – has occupied a building it owns on Rue Roy since 2010. During our visit, the day before the one on the farm, the kitchen volunteers were preparing lemon and dill salmon, the dish of the day, while others foraged on the gardens located on the roof.
The organization has been able to count on its small agricultural land in Senneville since 2012, thanks to a 25-year lease concluded with members of the famous English-speaking Morgan family, to whom we owe the Morgan Arboretum of the McGill University, the neighboring forest reserve of 245 hectares.
Not only does the farm allow Santropol Roulant to strengthen its local supply cycle, but it promotes education on food safety. “There’s just 4% of agricultural land left in Montreal,” says Melanie Godel, fundraising and communications coordinator. “We remain the only Meals on Wheels in Canada that grows our own vegetables. »
Last Tuesday, children from a day camp visited the Roulant farm. On August 6, the general public is invited to a garlic harvest day. These are great opportunities to discover and admire Senneville, a “village” of eight square kilometers and 1000 inhabitants which is nevertheless one of the 82 municipalities of the Metropolitan Community of Montreal.
In another era, the wealthiest Montrealers came to take refuge in their country houses designed by renowned architects such as the brothers Edward and William S. Maxwell (to whom we owe the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the central tower of the Château Frontenac).
It should be noted that it is in a farm in Senneville, Le Souffle de vie, that we find the only vineyard on the island of Montreal.
Thanks to the Santropol Roulant, everyone can have privileged access to the bucolic setting of Senneville, where the population remains (very well) affluent.
Volunteering on the farm allows you to have both hands in the ground, but also to meet people of all backgrounds: students, retirees, green thumbs and even young people who have to do community work. At the end of the volunteer shift in which we participated, everyone had lunch together under a tree.
“It’s the unifying power of food,” says Melanie Godel.
And the power of the community, one would add.