Hello all! My name is Olivier Labrie, I am a prairie boy from Manitoba, and have been living in Montréal for the past 3 years where I have discovered the wonderful world of peri-urban farming here on the island. As a two time graduate in Botany and in Ecological Agriculture, the people I met and the courses I took shaped me into who I am today, an avid believer in socio-economic development through local food production.
I have been involved in the urban and peri-urban agriculture movement in Montréal through volunteering at collective gardens in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) community, as well as at urban gardens and organic conferences. Work experience at a non-profit organization gave me insight into how a community can be empowered through collective gardening. It also taught me how to coordinate garden sessions, budget for projects, and engage with members of the community. My experience as an intern at the organic farm, Ferme du Zéphyr, gave me the opportunity to learn how to manage a small-scale organic farm, and develop teamwork and prioritizing skills. Needless to say, I am ready for this project!
Over the last 6 months I have dedicated my time and energy into developing a project concept that revolves around growing quinoa locally for communities that face food insecurity – in a way that highlights the issues associated with the rapid increase in global demand for quinoa. I had applied for a community fellowship offered by my academic institution to fund the project, but in the end I was not selected as the recipient of the grant. However, I could not give up on this idea because I felt as though it could create a small amount of positive change and make a difference in communities, locally at least. So I started to connect with different organizations and turned to crowd fundraising to sustain the first year of this project. The support has been tremendous. Here is a bit about the project.
Quinoa is an intriguing crop to grow locally in Montréal for several reasons. Most notably, it has incredible nutritional benefits that can serve to fight food insecurity in local communities when rendered more accessible to low-income households. This inaccessibility to organic quinoa is even more pronounced in South America, where it has been grown for thousands of years, all due to the exponential increase in global demand for quinoa. We can indirectly help these troubled communities from abroad simply through creating awareness about the issues surrounding the export of quinoa, with the end goal to eventually build an equitable quinoa trade on an international level, to support these same farmers in a more direct way.
Using 1/4 of an acre of land at Ferme du Zéphyr, an organically certified CSA farm, we will be the first sizable quinoa growing initiative in Quebec, with the potential to grow over 500 pounds of organic quinoa and amaranth. We are going to sell the seeds and greens at market in NDG, and for every bag sold, an equal amount will be donated to two local community organizations that work to ensure food security in Montreal. We will also be saving our seeds this season to create a quinoa and amaranth seed bank, to donate a portion to Semences du patrimoine, and to select for more locally adapted varieties.
The short-term goals are to raise awareness towards the implications and issues surrounding the growing popularity of quinoa globally, and to empower the community. Secondly, to yield as much quinoa and amaranth as possible in order to maximize the amount of funds raised and ancient seeds and greens donated. Long-term objectives include encouraging a local network of small-scale organic farmers to start growing quinoa as well, to increase the number of community participants in the project, and eventually create an equitable trade partnership to support quinoa farmers in South America.
I believe that this project can challenge the status quo in the industrial era of agriculture. There is a growing awareness that an increase in availability of local fresh foods is vitally important to communities, the environment, and the local economy. Awareness is simply not enough. There needs to be conceptual and tangible changes to our current food system, economy, and social environment. Bridging the gap particularly on a local level, between profit and non-profit organizations, and making them “one” breeds optimism for a different kind of socio-economic structure. This project will reconnect people with their food, and communities themselves with their inner neglected communities.
Thanks for your support!
For more, visit: www.indiegogo.com/projects/quinoa-for-change-mtl