Back in 2017, Jean‑Philippe Vézina, an adviser for Montreal community organizations, made a trip to Haiti, the land of his birth, and discovered he wanted to share his culture by growing produce used in Afro‑Caribbean cuisine. Returning to Canada, Vézina studied bio‑intensive agriculture and took a class led by Leah Penniman, author of Farming While Black. In 2020 Les Jardins Lakou (lakou means “yard” or “home” in Haitian Creole) was born on a plot of land in Dunham, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. “It’s a way for people to reclaim their culinary heritage,” Vézina says.
Grower of the Year
Les Jardins Lakou: Decolonizing the Market Garden
Our Grower of the Year cultivates culture through greens and vegetables first grown by Indigenous peoples and Afro‑descendants.
Vézina had a tumultuous 2020. But this year he more than doubled the number of subscribers to his vegetable baskets, and his jicama, sweet potato, giraumon (turban squash), okra, collard greens and African spinach all flourished.
“With each delivery, I send out a newsletter to talk about the historical and cultural significance of certain products, and I include recipes,” says Vézina. For instance, roselle (hibiscus leaf) is well‑known in parts of Africa: “The leaves are highly prized for their tangy, slightly spicy taste,” he says.
The historical notes have a strong resonance for Quebecers of African descent, but subscribers from every background are enjoying the results of Vézina’s labours. “Few of us realize that many of our staples were discovered and first used by First Nations and Afro‑descendants,” he says.