A youth in AgriLab preparing food that the program participants grew


Growing a sustainable future for youth in Quebec

Jun 22, 2023
For many people, gardening is a hobby to relax and connect with nature. In Carrefour Jeunesse-emploi Rivière-des-Prairies’ AgriLab program in partnership with Passerelle high school, gardening is a catalyst for youth to believe in themselves and prepare for the future.
Carrefour Jeunesse-emploi Rivière-des-Prairies, which is located in Montreal, offers programs and services that help youth achieve their employment goals. Their AgriLab program engages males aged 13-20 who are involved in the child welfare or youth criminal justice system to help them gain high school credits, integrate into the labor market and learn entrepreneurial skills. What makes AgriLab unique is that the platform in which these skills and lessons are being taught is through greenhouse gardening and the science, technologies, and business behind it. 

Nurturing learning, growth and entrepreneurship

A greenhouse being used in AgriLab
Technology and entrepreneurship are at the core of the AgriLab program. Facilitated by science teachers, youth gain high school credits during their placement while receiving hands-on learning in greenhouse gardening techniques and cutting-edge technology such as FarmBot and 3D printing.
FarmBot, a web based app, gives people the power to manage a garden from anywhere, at any time. Like architects of nature, the youth participating in AgriLab start to learn how to become builders of their own automated greenhouses. From learning how to monitor humidity, light and pH levels to designing efficient irrigation systems and optimizing plant placement, the opportunities to maximize productivity while conserving resources are limitless. The organization also has access to a 3D printer youth use to create self watering pots and other items that support their operations. By learning how to manage a greenhouse, youth in the program become ambassadors of sustainable gardening practices and urban farming, while learning valuable life skills.
The AgriLab youth work together with their teachers to run a boutique to sell some of the goods they grow. In the process, youth learn about what goes into running a small business and how to develop an entrepreneurial spirit. A portion of the produce, plants and even sauces that are handmade from the tomatoes they grow are sold at the AgriLab boutique. Program participants play a prominent role in selling the products to staff and volunteers within the organization. In the most recent cohort, youth created a logo for the boutique and its products and have put together plans to market the business to a wider audience. Their slogan is: When technology meets heritage. 

Harvesting new possibilities

In partnership with the TELUS Montreal Community Board, TELUS Friendly Future Foundation is helping fund the greenhouses and technology Carrefour Jeunesse-emploi Rivière-des-Prairies is using in AgriLab. Together, we’re empowering 150 male youth involved in Quebec’s child welfare or youth criminal justice system to access the program and create new possibilities for themselves and their future.
A youth in AgriLab harvesting vegetables in the garden
Another unique element of AgriLab is centered around what Carrefour Jeunesse-emploi Rivière-des-Prairies does with surplus fruits and vegetables grown. Some of the produce that doesn’t have the visual appeal to sell at the boutique are used in the organization's youth cooking workshops which prepares meals to feed the staff, children and youth involved with the organization. Youth in AgriLab also have the opportunity to bring a basket of fruits and vegetables home with them on a regular basis with suggested low-cost, healthy meal recipes to feed themselves and their families.
"I really enjoyed farming, especially starting my tomato plants and seeing how big they became thanks to the lessons and knowledge I gained through AgriLab. I will always remember being congratulated by my teachers and friends for my work."

- Youth participant in the AgriLab program

Thanks to our supporters and visionary organizations like Carrefour Jeunesse-emploi Rivière-des-Prairies, we’re helping youth cultivate critical life skills and empowering them with the tools they need to start believing in themselves — and in their dreams.