On the rooftop of a building at the corner of Coloniale Ave. and Roy St. in Plateau Mont-Royal, Tim Murphy points to an expansive garden.

“This is part of that original vision we had, which was having a garden right up on our own roof,” said Murphy.

Murphy, the director of urban agriculture, and community coordinator Noemie Desbiens-Riendeau run the urban agriculture program at Santropol roulant.

For 17 years, the organization that has delivered hot meals to those in need.

The addition of a rooftop garden has resulted in more local and organic produce going into those meals.

Their work is so highly regarded, in October, the pair was decorated with a national award for their work in their community and in the garden.

Desbiens-Riendeau said it’s about more than just their organization, the garden helps sew the seeds of urban agriculture in Montreal.

“When I see people or people in our community enthusiastic or really craving for agriculture, that for me is the most rewarding,” she said.

One-third of the food harvested on the roof, ends up in the kitchen, and is used to prepare 100 hot meals a day.

Those meals are delivered those who need a little extra help to remain independent at home.

Ninety-two year-old Eddie Lion is one of those people.

Lion lives alone in NDG, but that doesn't slow him down – the man even tap danced on his 90th birthday.

For active seniors like Lion, proper nutrition is often hard to get, so Santropol roulant is a valuable service.

“It's very simple: I don't cook! So I like Santropol because there I get pre-fabricated meals. They come and all I have to do is put it in the microwave and heat it up,” he said.

Murphy and Desbiens-Riendeau have worked hard to grow the garden and Santropol Roulant's connection with the community.

Volunteer Larissa Milo-Dale said their role is invaluable.

“They're the heart of the growth in terms of the literal growth of the plants and also the direction that this place is going and that it has been going in for the last year,” said Milo-Dale.

This year, the pair also created a farming program for city youth in Senneville.

“By us farming out in the West Island, we're highlighting the importance of the last remaining pieces of farmland on the island of Montreal and at the same time we were able to bring some of the people we work with downtown,” said Murphy. “Some of the urban kids come out to farm, so they really understand where that food is coming from.”

That program gained national recognition, earning them a Canadian World Youth Award, handed out for innovative community leadership.

“Hey, we're eating three times a day,” said Desbiens-Riendeau. “That's not nothing; that's something. If we want to change something in our world, I think we should start with our food.”

After seven years at Santropol roulant and growing a solid foundation there, Murphy said he will be moving on in the new year.

“Santropol roulant is a youth-driven organization, so it's really important for me as well to let someone else come in with new ideas and have the same great opportunity I had,” he said. 

Interested in urban farming? Santropol roulant is offering a free workshop on Nov. 28 at their facilities in the Plateau.

More information is available here