Cultivating Change with Mélisanne

“In a way, an urban garden becomes a green oasis where our perspective on the world can change, even if it is just for a few minutes a day.”

Mélisanne is the touch of color in your day. From her colorful hair bands to her easy laugh, she’s a bundle of energy! Always carrying her own first aid kit, notebook and an oddly large lunch box, Mélisanne is equipped to deal with any eventuality! This must be due to her long experience as a farmer. After all, as Montreal’ Chief Farmer, you never know what surprises may await you in the field…

Mélisanne and her famous smile

Let’s get to know her a bit … !

How did you fall into the world of agriculture?

It was during my studies in environmental education. I was looking for a subject that touched everyone personally every day and that could have an impact on health and the environment. Food was the topic that seemed most useful to me and producing one’s own food was the ultimate way to choose production methods that were more respectful of health and the environment. Since I wanted to introduce gardening and farming as a way to get involved, I had to know what it was all about myself. So I started with a vegetable garden on my balcony, then in a community garden and finally on a plot in an urban farm. From these three projects, farming and entrepreneurship took over, and over time, became my career.

What change(s) do you hope to bring about with urban agriculture?

The rhythm of the seasons, the time it takes for plants to grow, and the slow process are aspects of agriculture that are not as present in the urban lifestyle where everything can move very fast. Getting people to pay attention to time and the small differences in plants from one visit to the next is something that urban agriculture can bring. In a way, an urban garden becomes a green oasis where our perspective on the world can change, even if it is just for a few minutes a day.

What do you like the most about your work?

The plants! Paying attention to the details of these green living things and interpreting the information they communicate is my favorite part of being a farmer. When I am observing the gardens and doing the tasks, I have to be present and in the moment. If I lose focus, details are missed and the plants or farmers will not be as healthy as possible. And unfortunately, the plants can’t tell me what I’ve missed, so if I miss it, it may not be possible to recover.

If you could farm anywhere in the world, where would you go?

When you’re a farmer in Canada, the seasons are the center of everything. I’ve had the chance to help out on farms in Latin America and I always wondered how they were able to produce continuously throughout the year. Probably living a whole agricultural year in the south would lead me to change the rhythm and discover a totally new one. In a way, when the context changes so much it is like becoming a farmer again for the first time.

If you were a vegetable, herb or plant, which one would you be? And why?

I always answer: the leek. It’s the first seedling to go indoors in early February when it’s still cold and snowy outside, and the last to be harvested in November even after the first snow. It is a companion throughout the farming season. It is resilient and requires little help from a farmer. It has a long shelf life and is versatile in the kitchen. If someone described me with all these qualities, it would be quite an honor for me!

If you had to give one ultimate gardening tip, what would it be? 

It’s all about the gardener. We must adapt our garden to our realities, our needs, our resources. If we don’t respect our abilities, chances are we will lose interest and give up along the way. Our plants depend on us from beginning to end and we have to be there for our plants to be healthy.