Urban Farming is on the Rise in Detroit
5 years ago I moved to Detroit with my then life partner. We were attracted by an agricultural and cultural revolution that was happening in the city. Urban farming was on the rise. Beautiful communities were being built in these “agrihoods.”
Most people think of Detroit only as drug-addled hood areas, desolate, and falling apart. Once, this was extremely true of the city. But by the time we moved there, it was on the come-up, as many of my local friends described it. Community gardening was on the rise.
We became involved in Fireweed Universe City. There were three different public gardens in just two little streets that made up the community. Beyond that people were putting in work all over the city both in private and community gardens.
Growing the Community
Now the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) has created what it is calling “America’s first sustainable urban agrihood,” with an edible garden at its center. It provides free produce for 2000 households in the 2 square mile area around the farm. It also supplies markets, restaurants, and food pantries.
The concept of an “agrihood,” in general, isn’t new. Apparently the Urban Land Institutes about 200 of these across the U.S alone. But the First Sustainable Urban Agrihood is the first truly urbanized one, sprouting up from the rubble of the once-great city of Detroit.
These agrihoods gained popularity for a reason. Detroit has been considered one of the biggest food deserts in the United States…or it was anyway. Before community gardening efforts, the only available food was that which was sold at convenience stores. Certainly not fresh fruits and vegetables. The last 15 years of hard activist work has tipped those scales. It is now one of the more green cities as far as local food production is concerned.
The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, a collective I was familiar with when I moved there, initiated this project. It’s an all-volunteer project whose aim is to get people off the streets and into the community while feeding them for their efforts. The plot of land dubbed the agrihood is 2 acres, with more than 300 varieties of vegetables. It includes an orchard with 200 trees of all kinds.
Recently more steps to improve the sustainability of urban farms as well as creating a community center have been explored. Ideas include turning a vacant building into a community center. Developing a healthy food cafe. Installing Solar Power. Water harvesting in a basement to irrigate the garden.Composting toilet for retention of nutrients.
They’re even making use of the craters left by demolished homes, turning them into water collection ponds. Detroit ingenuity at it’s finest. Something to feel optimistic about is that this isn’t just one farm or garden project with these goals. If there’s one thing I experienced in Detroit it was that these sorts of projects are all over the city. Just proof, that Detroit Hustles Harder. And there is growing public recognition of the value they provide.
Read more, First Sustainable Agrihood
Learn how to prepare your preschoolers for the rise of Urban Farming here!