Montreal urban agriculture blossoms despite red tape
“There’s a lot the city can do to make this process much simpler.”
By Brennan Neill
After two months of round-the-clock care, the first batch of vegetables at Lufa Farms is ready to be harvested. The eggplants and tomatoes that have been growing since February will soon be picked by a small staff of roughly ten people. Meanwhile, the cucumbers and bell peppers just a few rows over will continue to ripen in Lufa’s massive rooftop greenhouse, which sits on top of a two storey commercial building in Ahuntsic-Cartierville.
Three years ago, Mohamed Hage, 29, the founder of Lufa Farms, had the idea to build an urban greenhouse to grow organic vegetables. Armed with a background in computer software and a taste for the tomatoes he ate growing up in Lebanon, Hage set out to build a two million dollar, thirty-one thousand square foot greenhouse to provide Montrealers with fresh, locally grown produce.
That was a bold vision, especially in a city that has few examples of urban agriculture and plenty of red tape to prevent it from taking root.
Hage encountered several obstacles on the way to realizing his dream greenhouse. In order to be allowed to commercially farm, his preferred property had to be rezoned to include agriculture. That rezoning and licencing process alone delayed Lufa Farms for a year. (Construction finally began this past September.)
“I think this is what is disappointing and discouraging to a lot of future entrepreneurs that want to get into urban agriculture,” said Hage. “There is no need to change the zoning to allow for agriculture. Agriculture is not risky or dangerous.”