It’s been just shy of 10 years now since Ian Christopher Goodman strapped a trailer on his bicycle and formed Les jardiniers à bicyclette, a Montreal gardening company that pairs cycling with earth-care.
This team cruises around on their bikes moving from site-to-site working on gardens. They use only hand tools, and for larger jobs they employ the use of heavy-duty bike trailers that pull up to 700 pounds each- no pick-up trucks necessary!
A quick browse around the website will give you a taste of what this company is about. It’s a tight knit group of enthusiastic, apparently kooky but well-informed gardeners who are seriously fit and equally serious about earth-care and cutting down on fossil fuels. While never exclusively using the language of permaculture on their website, its clear to see that the team is employing some key permaculture ideas, and that scores major points in my books.
The one which called out to me the most, which I love is permaculture principle #9: use small and slow solutions.
Not saying that these guys are slow on their bikes at all. I imagine they’re extremely capable cyclists. What this principle is getting at, and what I’m pointing towards here is that small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones. This means that those who employ this philosophy make better use of their local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes. Because Ian’s business is one that forgoes fossil fuels, it means that Les jardiniers à bicyclette manage their resources and tools alike more carefully than other larger companies. Furthermore, because the company requires such a specialized kind of worker, not only someone who is physically fit, good at cycling, but also knowledgeable in earth-work this translates into slow growth for how the company takes on new workers.
Another idea in permaculture that is often strived for is that every feature in a garden (as well as one’s life) will be able to serve a few functions. Like a net, if one section is cut, there will be other links to keep that feature intact. This ensures the entire system doesn’t fall apart when there’s a snag. I see this happening in Les jardiniers à bicyclette. Ian writes, “a big focus for us these days is to suggest indigenous plants that […] not only look charming, but may also be edible, medicinal and attract birds and pollinators.” Ian’s team has recognized that gardens don’t have to be ornamental any longer and their approach reflects that. Also, since Ian was already a cyclist, the use of bikes as a mode of transport for work is smart! The bike is serving so many functions here, transport for life and work, reducing one’s carbon footprint, not to mention the health benefits that cycling gives the body and mind.
Overall Les jardiniers à bicyclette is a wonderful little company, started by a really interesting human and I just wanted to highlight that. There is a docuseries on cineseries.ca showing more about the birth and growth of the company if you want to learn more. Ian is not only a passionate cyclist and gardener, but a filmmaker and poet amongst other things. If you’re in the Montreal area and are seeking to try something new, support a local business, have a consultation etc look up: jardiniers-a-bicyclette.org.
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