My short article I posted on ECO City Farms blog on 11/23/2011:
Detroit is generally known as the Motor City because the U.S. auto industry. Over the years this city’s economy has shared the same fate as the U.S. auto manufacturers. As Detroit rises out of the ashes, many of its residents are beginning to seek out ways to farm the vacant lots and open spaces within the city limits. The residents are starting to use urban farming as one way to reconnect the next generation to the city’s agricultural roots. In this post I will discuss two reports that provides a broad scope of the urban agriculture movement in Detroit.
The first report is called “The Gift of Detroit”: Tilling Urban Terrain, by Jon Kalish of the NPR (featured on the Weekend Edition on October 2, 2011). What I liked about this report are it identifies what are some of the possibilities of making a profitable venture within urban landscape and also some of the challenges. For example, Paul Weertz farms approximately 10 acres within Detroit. He grows about 1,000 bales of alfalfa. Another example focuses on Brother Nature Produce, which farms on 12 abandoned lots. It is operated in a co-op model amongst 27 families. However, the challenge is Detroit do not have clear policies with urban agriculture ventures within the city limits. If the city government wanted to reclaim the property for a future development or levy fines for having vegetation that is too tall they can. Listen to this report here or read about it here. See what other examples you can pull out from this report.
The next report, called Detroit Urban Agriculture Movement Looks to Reclaim Motor City, (as featured on Democracy Now on June 24, 2010), focuses on how some groups are working with city government. In the video, Malik Yakini gives a tour of the D-Town Farm while speaking about the farms mission and the importance of urban agriculture in revitalizing Detroit. The farm is located in Rouge Park, one of the largest parks in the city. Yakini’s organization Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), secured a 10-year lease with the city to operate their four acres organic farm. DBCFSN is organizing to educate and take action in their community by influencing public policy, and promoting urban agriculture and healthy eating habits. You can view this story here and take some time to follow some of the other stories on revitalizing Detroit.
As urban agriculture develops in Detroit and the city’s economy begins to improve, there will be policy barriers to sustaining such operations. Having allies with the municipality and creating policies that legalize urban agriculture enterprises in Detroit by incorporating these enterprises into the city’s zoning code will be essential.