Canada’s Largest Organic Rooftop Garden is in Saint-Laurent
Canada’s Largest Organic Rooftop Garden – There is a new garden in town. It measures 25,000 square feet and is the ‘largest organic supermarket green roof’ in Canada. Developed by IGA Extra Famille Duchemin and located in the borough of Saint-Laurent, it is the first supermarket to sell produce grown on its very own roof. Store owners Richard, Daniel, and Francis Duchemin teamed up with urban farmers from La Ligne Verte (Green Line) to bring the innovative project to life.
Over 30 different varieties of organic produce, certified by Ecocert Canada will be grown on the supermarket’s roof including: lettuce, peppers, herbs, tomatoes and more. In addition to the vegetable garden, the roof is also home to eight Alvéole bee hives, which will produce roughly 600 jars of honey. The cutting-edge store is also in the process of obtaining silver LEED certification. It is the very first store to use an irrigation system with water recovered from its dehumidification system.
I was at the store last Saturday and the prices were quite reasonable, considering the produce was organic and had a very low carbon footprint. A box of ‘oak’ lettuce was $2.79, a bunch of kale and beets were each $3.49 – and they were all very fresh and tasty. The store also had a couple of monitors showing a live video feed of the rooftop, where customers had the opportunity to see the garden above.
The project did come with quite a few challenges, but they were successfully resolved:
FERTILIZING A THIN LAYER OF SOIL – The soil on the store’s green roof is only 150 mm deep. Generally speaking, plants requiring little care and few nutrients would be grown in such conditions – the exact opposite of vegetables! An agronomist was therefore called in to develop and adapt a fertilization plan. Last fall, for example, the team spread fertilizer in most of the plots to supplement the soil with organic matter.
SECURING PLANT STAKES, but not in the ground – Staking plants is more complicated on a roof since it’s impossible to secure the stakes in the ground. The team came up with a brilliant solution – they took plastic buckets that would have ended up in the store’s recycling bin, filled them with cement, and inserted steel rods to serve as stakes.
There have been some very interesting supporters of the project as well who stopped by – and clearly approved of what was being done. This past spring, the urban farmers from La Ligne Verte found a bird nest with four eggs inside on the roof. The eggs hatched a few weeks later and the farmers have since shared the roof with a small family of ‘killdeer’ (medium-sized shorebirds). A small family of ducks also made their home on the roof this past spring, although they left after a few weeks being ready to move on.
Eco friendly and smart, the project is exceptional and something other supermarket stores should aspire too. The roof also created two full-time jobs: one year-long, the other six months a year.
“A green roof garden allows us to nourish our passion for food while reducing our environmental footprint, something that is particularly important to us. We are happy to give life to this innovative project and hope it encourages other companies to follow suit,” said Richard Duchemin, co-owner of IGA extra Famille Duchemin.
Imagine if every supermarket in Canada were to follow the same path… to the rooftop. The potential is enormous.