It seems like everyone has a Lufa Farms tote bag.🍅
You may not have tried their veggies, but you've definitely seen their tote bags. Lufa Farms, the brainchild of entrepreneur Mohamed Hage, delivers approximately 30,000 baskets of fresh produce per week and other locally-sourced groceries to families across the Island of Montreal.
The trailblazing company opened the world's largest commercial rooftop greenhouse in Montreal last year after breaking ground on the world's first such greenhouse in Ahuntsic in 2010. The name "Lufa" refers to a cucumber-like vegetable (yes, the same one you can dry and use in the shower) that Hage fondly remembers growing on the roofs in his native Lebanon — much like the rooftop gardens he and his team have brought to life in Montreal.
Tomatoes growing in large clusters in the biggest greenhouse in Ville Saint-Laurent.Courtesy of Lufa Farms
Since 2010, a lot has changed for Lufa Farms. Weekly baskets are now fully customizable, allowing "Lufavores" — the in-house name for Lufa Farms subscribers — to pick and choose from a variety of roof-grown produce and other locally sourced food.
It would be easy to assume most Lufavores are family-minded, shopping for three or more stomachs. But a surprisingly large number of subscribers are young professionals or even students, who seem to really care about where their food comes from, Lufa Farms representative Caroline Bélanger told MTL Blog.
Lufa Farms' most popular vegetable: the cherry tomato.Courtesy of Lufa Farms
Bélanger also shared the most popular vegetable among Lufavores: the humble yet versatile cherry tomato. "We always are sold out of tomatoes," Bélanger said. "Even though we have a huge greenhouse, we still have partners [supplying] tomatoes because we just don't have enough of them."
These partnerships are between Lufa Farms and local farmers, who supply additional produce to keep up with demand and broaden the selection for Lufavores.
As for the ubiquitous tote, Bélanger explained that it arose out of necessity. Before Lufa Farms offered delivery, the only options were pickup points, where labelled boxes awaited their Lufavores. Allowing customers to take the boxes home was counterproductive, but carrying a bunch of vegetables by hand isn't exactly easy, so Lufa Farms began supplying sturdy, flat-bottomed tote bags to help in the process.
Someone models a classic Lufa Farms tote. Lufa Farms
Now, each new Lufavore gets their own tote along with their first box — meaning everyone and their grandmother seems to have one. "It's really fun to see when you're walking on the street and [the bags are] everywhere you look," Bélanger smiled. "It's nice to see so many people have at least tried supporting us at some point."
The company has a philanthropic side, too — their Direct Giving program involves partnerships with seven local food banks and shelters. Lufa Farms provides these organizations with fresh food and Lufavores provide (most of) the funding. It's up to each partner organization to select which of their community members are most in need each week and allocate resources accordingly.
"Each family that they've chosen gets $25 per individual in the family a week," Bélanger explained. "And they also get a discount of 50% off the fruits and vegetables that are on the [Lufa Farms online] marketplace." It's part of an effort to fill the gaps: where food banks and other groups aren't able to reliably store meats or other fresh goods, Lufa Farms can provide these items as needed.
A workers sets up plants in the largest greenhouse, located in Ville Saint-Laurent.Courtesy of Lufa Farms
When it comes to the future, Lufa Farms has big plans. Right now, around 20% of the vegetables sold each season are produced directly in the company's rooftop greenhouses, leaving lots of room for growth. "We're always looking for more greenhouses to build within Montreal," Bélanger confirmed. "Once the model here is really replicable," she says, Lufa Farms can set its sights on the rest of the world.