Student Life

Potting up with Grand Potager

A second breath of life for Verdun greenhouses

Two years ago, a group of people from the farmers market in Verdun decided to revitalize local greenhouses. This idea has sprouted into what is now Grand Potager, an urban agricultural centre in the district’s municipal greenhouses. Grand Potager has spent the last few years revamping local greenhouses as a way to give back to their surrounding community.
Lia Chiasson, co-founder of Grand Potager, explained that she and a group of people were walking alongside riverbanks with unused greenhouses and felt they had to do something. “One person talked to another who talked to another and that’s how the project was born,” said Chiasson. She explained that, because greenhouses are municipal property, although they submitted their district application in the fall of 2016, it wasn’t until 2018 that they were able to launch their pilot year. Grand Potager currently consists of twelve members.
According to Grand Potager’s website, the centre promotes urban agriculture—or growing food in a city setting and distributing it within local food systems. “Our goals are also forming social ties in gardening altogether,” said Chiasson. Grand Potager positively impacts the fabric of their community by bridging communication between other organizations working out of the Verdun greenhouses, local residents, and the municipal borough.

Clementines in full-bloom at the Grand Potager greenhouses in Verdun. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Chiasson explained that, while people from the neighbourhood frequent the greenhouses more often, everybody is welcome. “It’s a beautiful place near the river,” she said. “It’s perfect to do some workshops, conferences, harvest.” She also said that different people need different amounts of land for their gardens, and that they’ll do their best to accommodate that. “We have to meet the needs of all.”
Grand Potager is a vector of food security for its patrons, which are mostly local farmers. “We’re offering organic and local products of a good quality to our members. With this food security, we also teach [members] about vegetables, how they grow, where [they are] from. It allows [them] to develop culinary knowledge,” said Chiasson. Grand Potager offers many weekly events, both to Verdun residents and the general public. According to their website, the centre participates in the Verdun farmers market every week and occasionally partners up with other agricultural centres, like the Concordia Greenhouse. Chiasson said kids are more than welcome, and that a few schools near Verdun arranged for their students to visit and discover the greenhouses.

Grand Potager will be hosting their Harvest Party Friday, Oct. 12 in the Verdun greenhouses at 7000 Boulevard LaSalle, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

This system allows for a sustainable environment and, thanks to cleverly thought-out spacing and creative garden construction, Verdun is slowly turning green. “With our plans, we reduce heat islands, so we reduce greenhouse gases,” said Chiasson. “It’s also a sustainable economic view. The local market is a business incubator for emerging companies. It can help to develop their projects in greenhouses, also linked to food security.”

The next step for Grand Potager is to acquire more greenhouses, reorganize them to optimize their greenspace, and ultimately, welcome a larger community.

For more information about how you can get involved with Grand Potager and become a member, visit their website

The Grand Potager Harvest Party is on Friday, Oct. 12. in the greenhouses at 7000 Boulevard LaSalle, Verdun, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Feature image by Mackenzie Lad.


Concordia’s new vegetable playground

Labour of love sees organic and healthy come to a university near you

Oct. 29 was the opening of Concordia’s Farmers’ Market, a unique outlet for students to purchase and learn about what they eat. Founders Kasha Paprocki and Alejandra Melian-Morse say the event went extremely well for something that wasn’t even on the drawing board before the semester began.

The two say that the idea, supervised by Dr. Satoshi Ikeda, an anthropology professor with a devoted streak to food initiatives like the Hive Café, the Greenhouse, and the Food Coalition, came about from a deep respect and love for quality produce.

“I decided I wanted to do it through the Social Economies Food Internship that’s offered through the Anthropology and Sociology program, and I came up with the idea and came to Satoshi. Kasha was taking the food classes this year and we were talking about it and she got really excited about it too, so we approached him for a partner project.”

The Farmers’ Market, looking to become Concordia’s own Jean Talon Market, was put together on a relatively modest timeline beginning at the start of the semester with the opening deadline slated for Oct. 29. Paprocki and Melian-Morse began working on it right away; they joke their volunteering hours were complete after about ‘two weeks.’

They obtained consultation and advice from organizers and the food markets of UQAM and McGill for the how-tos and arranged for space with Concordia. The hardest step was directly contacting and building a relationship with the farmers who would be the linchpins of their plan. Simultaneously they launched a marketing campaign. This amount of work was steep for two full-time students, but the duo were helped by volunteers, some of whom needed to satisfy a volunteering course component. Paprocki and Melian-Morse say their varied skills and help was invaluable.

“It was pretty stressful, especially since before we had the opening on [Oct. 29], we decided to have a sample market day three weeks beforehand,” said Melian-Morse of their pre-opening.

“I was in contact with the farmers and Alejandra was responsible for the administration [and] applying for funding,” said Paprocki. “It all turned out well in the end and the farmers were really happy.”

For funding, the Farmers’ Market obtained the necessary capital through student funding opportunities like the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) and from the Concordia Council for Student Life. This community funding means the money is there, but the effort remains a labour of love.

“We don’t feel comfortable taking student’s money and paying ourselves,” said Melian-Morse, who did concede that the future may see paid positions be created if demand grows.

Melian-Morse said the seasonal beat to which the market marches on makes winter logistics problematic, but one which is highly beneficial to both producers and buyers.

“Since we’re a full-year market, and we’re indoor, it’s very attractive [to the farmers],” said Melian-Morse, listing the seasonal items—at the moment, mostly root vegetables—available.

“There’s also an amazing baker that has this massive table out with baguettes and croissants,” waxes Paprocki. “And there’s pie.”

The two are happy with the results, but see no need to limit the ambition.

“We’re going to start having workshops every week; different types of cooking, classes, or just info sessions on local organic food or food movements. We’d love to make the Farmer’s Market as much as of a learning experience as possible.” Already they’re hoping for better and bigger placement for next year, perhaps in the Library building or the EV building.

With winter coming, the girls are tackling the problem of securing a variety of produce from greenhouse operators. Maintaining locality and organic produce will be restricting, but they’re confident they can do it by learning from past attempts like one that saw a summer-only market fail from lack of patronage.

“I think the prices are very affordable,” she continues, saying they’re roughly equivalent to what organic food would be in supermarkets.

“Unless you’re eating Kraft Dinner,” chimes Melian-Morse.

The Concordia Farmers’ Market is located on the second floor of the Hall Building, next to the Hive.

Student Life

Concordia’s City Farm school grows gorgeous greens on campus

Stop by the farmer’s market at Loyola to taste the fruits of their labour

Did you know that those delicious-looking tomatoes in the farm garden on the Loyola campus can be purchased at Concordia’s farmer’s market? The market stand is literally a few steps away from the garden, and on market days the produce is harvested just before it opens at 11 a.m. This is food that is truly market-fresh and organically grown.

Photo by Johanna Pellus

Jackie Martin, the City Farm School coordinator, explained that the market garden is an internship program that provides the necessary training for students to design, manage and run small-scale urban gardens from seedlings to market, and is a key component of the school.  The market and garden at Loyola, along with the garden at the downtown campus’ Hall building, are great tools for the students to practice their skills. Serving at the farmer’s market enables them to share their knowledge and to interact with the community.

From spinach to squash, an impressive array of produce can be found in the gardens: salad greens, radishes, beets, carrots, peas, beans, Swiss chard, several types of kale, cucumber, zucchini, patty pans (zucchini shaped like spaceships), cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, broccoli, tomatoes, ground cherries, currants, raspberries, blueberries, pears, edamame, garlic, eggplants, an amazing selection of sweet and hot peppers, grapes, and fine herbs.

“The first crop that appears at our market in early spring is spinach, which is the best tasting thing in the whole garden,” says Martin.

The appearance of the winter squash signals the end of the growing season.  The schedule of vegetable availabilities per period can be found on the City Farm School website, which is updated regularly.

When customers see the bright red Russian kale, or the Swiss chard they frequently ask “what is it?” and “how do you cook it?” says Martin.  She and the interns are more than willing to share their own recipes and cooking tips for these food items, which will be added to their website soon.

As an urban agriculturalist, Martin ensures that both the farmers’ market and the City School projects subscribe to the three pillars of sustainability: community, economy, and environment.  She confirmes that the only pesticide used in the garden is made of a plant purée that is lightly fermented in water and sprayed directly on the crops.  Compost is used as a fertilizer, along with fish or algae emulsions or chicken manure.

The planning for next year’s market crops will start in November, so that the seeds can be ordered and planted in the greenhouse by early March. Next May, Martin will host the annual plant sale where some of these young organically-grown plants can be purchased by anyone who wants to try their hand at urban agriculture.

The farmer’s market receives some support from the Sustainability Action Fund and is in partnership/collaboration with Sustainable Concordia, People’s Potato (which uses produce from the gardens), Concordia Council on Student Life, and the Concordia Food Coalition.

Its operating hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. until the end of October.

For more information visit:


Eat healthy, live sustainably

The farmers’ market presented as part of the Concordia Student Union’s back-to-school orientation to promote sustainable and healthy living took over Reggie’s terrace Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Students and community members from local and university-based initiatives gathered from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. to participate in the farmers’ market on the first official day of semester. The event started off with breakfast for new and returning students at 11 a.m. by offering regional produce such as organic apples.

Different booths pushed ecological awareness by selling local produce from Concordia and other provincial organizations, cooking displays that used fresh, unprocessed and local foods, and different artisans who fabricated their own products.

CSU VP sustainability Andrew Roberts organized the event to encourage new students to pursue a sustainable lifestyle and to join campus initiatives.

“It’s good to promote this growing urban agriculture sustainable food movement,” said Roberts. “We’ve got a market happening and we have vendors giving out flyers for the Marché Locale.”

Fruixi, a project launched by the City of Montreal in 2011, also had a stall set up on the terrace. Fruixi is an initiative to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the urban core by setting up carts attached to bikes stocked with food in downtown parks.

“Initially the project was started up to promote healthy eating in the Centre-Sud neighborhood,” explained Fruixi co-ordinator Maxime St-Denis. “Residents of the area are often marginalized and more vulnerable considering low socioeconomic status so we gave them access to healthy foods.”

St-Denis wanted to diversify Fruixi’s clientele by extending their services to Concordia University students and the West End of Montreal.

“Having access to healthy foods is the secret to good health,” St-Denis said. “We’re here to promote our project, to be discovered in a part of the city we don’t work with much.”

The Concordia City Farm school is a project organized by Sustainable Concordia that shows students the basics of agriculture and farming.

In association with the greenhouse on the 13th floor of the Hall building, the City Farm School gave students free samples of green tea produced at the Loyola farm.

With files from Marie-Josée Kelly

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