---Moore Farm: urban oasis for all
One of the most striking urban contrasts in Gatineau is the Moore Farm. Located in central Hull near the corner of Saint Raymond and Alexandre Taché, the property comprises 82 acres and has resisted densification and housing developments for well over a century, becoming a favourite place for short hikes and cycling in the neighbourhood.
Privately owned until 1973, it was donated to the National Capital Commission by the Moore family on the condition that it be accessible to the public. However, realizing the potential of the Moore Farm proved challenging, and the facilities stayed largely idle for decades. Starting around 2005, the NCC spent 3.5 million restoring the historic buildings. Finally, a group of residents created the Solidarity Cooperative for the Moore Farm and in 2016 signed a 5 year lease for 30 acres of the land as well as the main buildings. They offered a range of services at the site including educational activities, (very) local organic produce and a restaurant and cafe whose recipes had ingredients grown just a few meters away.
Despite financial support from both the federal and municipal governments, the coop couldn’t become financially viable, filing for bankruptcy only three years after signing the lease.
After more than two years of the property being vacant, residents are becoming concerned with what will happen to it in the future. A recent proposal to create a farmer’s market run by Ontarian developers is certainly preferable to residential developments on the site. Nonetheless, it raised concerns from the organizers of farmers markets in Hull and the Plateau that it might not fit with models in place on the Quebec side of the river.
The councillor for the farm’s district, Jocelyn Blondin, proposed having the land transferred from the NCC to the city of Gatineau. He’s presented some interesting ideas to expand the community garden. Yet to guarantee that the city of Gatineau would be able to help the property reach its potential a long term plan is needed, one that can be maintained regardless of the ideology of the municipal council of the time. A concern is that Moore Farm could end up like the Fairview Manor grounds, a property close to the Hull hospital which in the year 2000 was also ceded by the NCC to the city of Hull/Gatineau. Although the grounds themselves are well maintained, two of the three buildings remaining on the property have been left to decay. Several others have already been lost to fire and neglect and were subsequently demolished. The manor itself is greatly under-used. There’s been talk of renovating it to make it a cultural centre since at least 2015, but there’s little activity to be seen.
The Dalton Farm offers inspiration. Located close to the Gatineau airport, it focuses on tourism, offering a sugar shack, orchid, a floral park and replicas of historic sites. Most importantly, it is seen as financially sustainable.
With creativity there’s surely a way to make the Moore Farm flourish.