Urban farming is big in Detroit, and it’s about to get even bigger. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced the addition of a $15 million, 60-acre urban farm where fruit and vegetables will be grown and sold to local restaurants. The mayor granted 40 acres of city-owned property to the project, joining other land already purchased, to become the future home of fields, greenhouses, and hydroponic systems. This will be the biggest urban farm in Detroit by a wide margin.
The farm will be possible in large part due to a transfer of about 40 acres of city-owned land near Eastern Market to the farm project, some of which still contains uninhabited homes. Mayor Duggan broke the news at the end of October, describing the project as a means of transforming 22 blocks of blighted property into an “urban agricultural enterprise.”
The farm is the golden child of an organization aiming to grow food commercially inside the city and use the profits to support SHAR, a drug addiction recovery agency, including putting recovering addicts and ex-offenders to work. Detroit’s food paradise will be run by RecoveryPark, which already manages a vegetable farm at a former industrial site off East Grand Boulevard near New Center. The new site will span 60 acres and represents a $15 million investment – if the nonprofit can come up with the funds.
Gary Wozniak, founder and CEO of RecoveryPark, told the Detroit Free Press he was thrilled to have struck a deal with the city to move Detroit’s agricultural programs to the next level. Having access to the land and support from the Mayor are important factors for moving forward with the project, but a lot of questions remain about how the organization will come up with the rest of the money needed to bring the vision to life.
So far, RecoveryPark has raised about $1 million toward the project, so there is quite a ways left to go. And the city isn’t giving up the land free of charge. The operation will pay $105 per acre per year in lease payments to the city and eventually buy the land for about $3,500 per acre.
Detroit, which made our list earlier this year of top cities in the United States for urban farming projects, is already home to more than 1,000 community gardens, where food is grown by volunteers and usually given away for free to neighbors and local food banks. The new farm is planned for groundbreaking in the spring.
Images via RecoveryPark and Mannik Smith Group