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.

Student Life

Slice of Life: Bloody botany

Watering your plants with diluted menstrual fluid

Do you like plants? Do you bleed once a month from the holiest of holy holes? Are you always looking for ways to save a few bucks and produce as little waste as possible? Well boy do I have a rad tip for you! If you’re up for the challenge, try diluting your menstrual fluid with water, and use that when watering your plants—it can essentially replace your need for fertilizer.

According to Planet Natural Research Centre, fertilizer mainly consists of three macronutrients: potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen—the same nutrients found in blood. Many organic gardeners also use blood meal fertilizer, which contains a high percentage of nitrogen and is made from dried animal blood, usually cow.

“Farmers have used blood meal since blood meal has existed,” said Jade, a Concordia master’s student who practices horticulture by fertilizing her plants with diluted menstrual fluid. “If you want, you can buy fertilizer at the store, but who knows where it came from,” she said. “Who knows how it was made—it’s probably a petrochemical.”

After Labour Day weekend, Jade and I sat down in a sunlit café to talk about her botanical practices. It was only after almost one year of using her menstrual cup that she one day stopped and thought, ‘Why am I dumping this and how can I make use of it?’

“For me, it was just obvious. I have plants—I’m going to use it on them,” Jade said. Properly diluting your blood is not an exact science, she explained, “but your plants will tell you.” The typical dilution ratio is 10 cups of water to one cup of blood.

In her apartment, Jade has multiple plants that she has grown from seeds: figs, bell peppers, lemons, dragon fruit, tamarillos. She even has a third-generation tomato plant, meaning Jade eats tomatoes that grew from the seeds of an earlier tomato, that came from the seeds of the original tomato (whew). She uses her menstrual fluid dilution on all of her plants.

Jade said that when people learn of her horticultural practices, she’s typically met with skepticism. “There’s definitely a stigma, but we eat plants from the grocery store that we don’t ask any questions about,” she said. “We just accept it.” Jade said she often gets put into a box with a big man-hating, feminazi label on it. “This has absolutely nothing to do with the patriarchy, and everything to do with zero waste.”

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Student Life

Organic food – friend or trend?

The Concordian visits Les Bontées de la Vallée organic farm. Photo by writer.

Awareness concerning farming practices has been growing, as the access to organic products has been multiplying around the city. Les Bontées de La Vallée sell their products on the corner of Fabre St. and Laurier St. each weekend from July to November. At their stand, you can buy an impressive diversity of organic goods following the time of season: carrots, fresh lettuce, apples, pears, fines herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes, beets, bok choy, as well as other varieties rarely seen in the grocery store such as swiss chard, kale, purple broccoli, tomatillo, purslane and even fresh chamomile.

François D’Aoust is originally a graphic designer. A few years ago, he started reading about organic farming and medicinal plants. His interest grew stronger as the time passed and he finally decided to take a course on agriculture production in Ontario to start his own business.

He then met Plante, who was an artistic agent at the time. She fell in love with organic farming and the organic farmer!

The two have been running the farm together for three years. For Plante, it’s the human side, offering a space for community bonding and sharing at the market. For D’Aoust, his passion is to offer a wide variety of fresh quality and responsible products.

How then is it possible that Stanford University can state that “after analyzing the data, the researchers found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods”?

Photo by writer.

First of all, its claims were made mostly on a nutritional basis. They analyzed papers “that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of various products (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry, and eggs) grown organically and conventionally.” At the same time, the study specified that “there were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years.”

The question is: can you draw relevant conclusions on these relatively short-term studies? What happens when you look at the whole picture, taking into consideration other elements beyond the nutrition levels?

The principle underlying organic farming is sustainability, in the short as well as the long run. On the farm in Havelock, D’Aoust is constantly trying innovative farming practices to produce in the most natural way.

Rather than rolled down in June, rye and clover are sowed in a field where they will stand as green fertilizer and as a blockage to weed for future tomato plants to grow. Daikon roots grow almost wildly, drilling the ground, thus aerating it naturally. Plantation sites are changed around every couple of years as to avoid draining the soil of its nutriments.

Photo by writer.

“Organic farming is a destination,” said D’Aoust.

As students, we can often feel divided between our responsibility as citizens and our restricted budget. An important aspect here, if not the most important, is buying local.

The organic stamp can be very expensive. Often, small-scale farmers just can’t afford it, but many still use sustainable practices. At Jean-Talon Market, you can find several sustainable producers such as Les Jardins Sauvages. It is either the same price or less expensive than at the grocery store since there are fewer intermediaries, and it is by far more delicious!

Organic farmers are often called “family farmers.” It’s about re-establishing the link between consumers and producers. It’s about taking our responsibility through our daily actions, raising our awareness and creating the kind of world we want to live in. So while it’s still unclear what the exact health benefits of eating organic food are, it’s still worth it to invest in these local community-run operations.



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