Agrotourism: West Island
We’ve all heard of Farm to Table and the importance of eating locally. But how far are we willing to go to learn about those who feed our families and their unique stories?
Farming is becoming more accessible to city-dwellers, particularly in Montreal, thanks to agrotourism. Last weekend I attended a trip through the West of Montreal Island, a robust agricultural site (to my surprise!) and a beautiful landscape to boot. The tour gave exclusive access to a handful of notable farmers and producers, and was choreographed by Melissa Simard, founder of Tours de La Table, nutritionist “gourmand” Julie Aubé and sommelier Marie-Ève Laplante. This was the second edition of a full-day tour, the first one being last September in Rougemont.
The goal? To introduce consumers and producers, create stories and memories around delicious food, and strive to protect and promote our neighbouring farms and our local economy. And, of course, to have a great day outdoors!
First Stop: Ferme Bord-du-Lac
A 15 acre collective of various small-scale farmers, this non-profit farm on Île Bizard rents out land to the “little guys” – notably Jardin Épicés, a small producer of South American spices and vegetables grown right here in Quebec.
The benefits? Start-up farmers or small-scale producers don’t need to invest heavily in purchasing their own land, and can benefit from shared expertise and support. This organic and non-pesticide farm works hard to ensure their work doesn’t go to waste- produce only available through farmer’s basket subscriptions to ensure every tasty morsel ends up in our plates!
Second Stop: Souffle de la Vie
What does wine, garlic, asparagus and horseback riding have in common? They’re all at Souffle de la Vie, a multi-faceted farm and the only vineyard on the island of Montreal. Protected by surrounding forests, the land is about one or two degrees warmer than the rest of the area making it prime grounds for growing the mighty grape.
Picking asparagus in a wild grassy patch, seeing show horses in prime condition, and sharing the enthusiasm for wine with the producers were just some of my favourite moments. I was able to leave with a fist-full of end-of-season asparagus, so fresh and sweet we could eat it raw directly from the fields. We were also given the opportunity to try some of their new wines- which won’t be ready for purchase until 2018 or 2019. I can’t wait for their products to be available at the SAQ!
Third Stop: Les Jardins Carya
Our third and final stop was at Les Jardins Carya, a local organic farm that collaborates with McGill University’s Macdonald Campus and provides opportunities for University students studying agriculture to get their hands dirty.
We started our trip with a foraging adventure, discovering edible plants and flowers that where later included in our gourmet dinner. A tour of the farm, and the various tactics to keep the bugs away without using pesticides (lots and lots of netting!), was just enough to whet our appetites.
We finished the tour, and the day, with a delicious meal with wine parings put together using ingredients from the three farms we visited. My favourite? The 63-degree egg with locally foraged greens and a dreamy fermented black garlic broth. Absolute heaven!
Generally, we don’t always get a chance to visit local farmers who feed our families daily. But if you do, jump at the opportunity as I’m sure you won’t regret it. Becoming an educated consumer has never been as relevant and important as it is today!
Interested in attending future tours like this one? Check out the next Tours de la Table this September throughout Rougement, and visit Julie Aubé’s website for additional tours and collaborations (website in french). I’ll see you there! 🙂