Since 1966, the Concordia Greenhouse has offered sanctuary and education to students
On the 13th floor of the Hall building lies a hidden rooftop oasis. The peaceful, plant-filled haven is a place of refuge and stillness in the busy city. It’s a space where the community can gather to study, socialize, sip a cup of tea and connect with nature. This student sanctuary is a strong component of Montreal’s urban agriculture scene and one of the university’s best-kept secrets: the Concordia Greenhouse.
Concordia student Shakti Langlois Ortega said she wishes she visited the greenhouse more often, as “it’s such an amazing environment.”
“When it’s cold outside, it’s a nice way to be with nature,” she added. “I love the plants and the care they give them.”
According to their website, the greenhouse’s mission is “to provide a welcoming, organic green space that fosters community by providing experiential learning opportunities within a year-round growing environment.” The non-profit also prides itself on a green space that encourages organic, sustainable horticulture students can enjoy.
“Everyone loves a sunny, plant-filled space,” said Sheena Swirlz, the greenhouse’s services coordinator.
The greenhouse is largely supported by a fee levy, the annual collection of $0.24 per undergraduate student per credit. For a typical bachelor’s degree of 90 credits, a student contributes a total of $21.60 to the greenhouse through student fees over course of their studies. While students can choose to opt out, the greenhouse uses these funds to complete more projects, organize more events and make changes where they are needed.
Another major source of funding for the greenhouse is plant sales. While large selling days are held several times per year, the greenhouse continuously offers a variety of products to students and the community, such as sprouting kits, terrariums, houseplants, honey and medicinal herbs.
Originally built in 1966, the greenhouse was always intended to be part of the Hall building’s infrastructure. Since then, it has developed into the go-to campus hub for everything environmentally-friendly. It provides a variety of resources that promote education and research on topics of sustainability, such as food security.
The People’s Potato, a collectively-run soup kitchen at Concordia offering vegan meals to students and community members on a pay-what-you-can basis, has long been partnered with the greenhouse, especially when it comes to sourcing sustainable food. According to a testimonial by the People’s Potato on the Concordia Greenhouse website, the greenhouse “fulfills a key role in this community by providing accessible services around environmental sustainability, permaculture, composting and many others.”
In addition to providing Concordia with easy access to ecological, wallet-friendly food on campus, the greenhouse also hosts a number of sustainability-oriented events every week. Workshops, film screenings as well as community projects and gatherings are just some of the ways the greenhouse contributes to a more sustainable Concordia.
“Upcoming events and workshops are posted on our Facebook and website,” Swirlz said. “Macrame hanging planters, terrariums and indoor mushroom cultivation are our most popular recurring workshops.”
This year, the greenhouse is gearing up for a slew of new activities and old favourites. Until Oct. 31, their very own City Farm School market stand will continue to be featured at the Loyola campus urban farm every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Their stand offers fresh, organic produce, such as vegetables, fruits and herbs.
Until Dec. 4, the greenhouse will also be offering a weekly Microgreen Community-Supported Agriculture Program (CSA). Students interested in the program would pay a discounted amount for a weekly sprout order and receive a 200 gram bag of sprouts—a “great way to save money” and “[guarantee] you receive a supply of [their] super-popular and super-local sprouts each week,” according to the greenhouse’s Facebook page.
For students interested in getting involved in the greenhouse, there are countless opportunities to learn and gain experience through workshops, internships and volunteer sessions. This year, the greenhouse is recruiting new board of directors members at their annual general meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. They are also recruiting candidates for weekly volunteer sessions and longer internships.
The best part about working at the greenhouse “is watching people’s eyes widen in delight,” Swirlz said. “They are so excited to learn about this gem of urban agriculture right in the heart of downtown.”
The Concordia Greenhouse is open to visitors on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Photos by Alex Hutchins