Brit Liggett

Turning Downtrodden Detroit Into a Farm Town Could Revitalize It

by , 11/19/10
filed under: social design, Urban design

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Detroit was one of the places hit hardest by the economic crisis, and as such it’s dotted with an abundance of empty lots sitting completely unused. The fallow spaces have become a constant reminder to a city — whose population has been reduced by half in the past six decades — of the lack of jobs and productivity. However, there are a number of enterprising individuals who have taken it upon themselves to do something about this problem by turning the deserted lots into farms for food. A recent study by a team of researchers at Michigan State University found that by using the parcels of land owned by the city as farmland, Detroit residents have the potential to harvest a total of 75% of needed vegetables and 40% of needed fruit within their city limits.

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“Our totals are conservative,” Mike Hamm, a professor of sustainable agriculture at Michigan State University told the New York Times. “But it may be closer to representing the quantity of land more readily available for urban farms and gardens because these parcels are publicly owned and clear of any buildings.” The Michigan State University study considered 44,000 empty parcels of land owned by the city totaling 5,000 acres (excluding parks, golf courses, rights of way and private property), and then applied the national produce consumption levels to arrive at their estimates.

Unfortunately the people on the cusp of creating these urban gardens and larger farms are having a hard time getting past city officials for approval. Gary Wozniak, director of the RecoveryPark project has been trying to get approval for his own urban farming idea, but has been met with brick walls. Wozniak told the Free Press last week, “every time we think we’ve reached a certain plateau, we get another excuse [...] We should be taking risks. We should be looking at this as opportunities.”

Via The New York Times

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3 Comments

  1. bs1999bs November 20, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Great stuff – back to the future? Learning to grow again from the basics.

  2. stijnb November 20, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Those last 2 pictures are from Ghent, Belgium. I live there, right across the street. The place is called ‘the site’. It’s a very good example of urban farming/gardening. ‘the site’ is located on a former industrial plant. The city didn’t have enough money so they changed it in urban gardens and a soccer field for kids. The great thing is that it attracts alot of diverse people and the community is still growing. We are just hoping it stays and the city doesn’t decide to rebuild on this beautiful place.

    here are some more pictures : http://www.gentblogt.be/2008/06/10/een-jaar-de-site

  3. justplainSandy November 19, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Bravo………. for umpteen years I have been saying that a farm should be a part of every city… a working farm …. It would be an adjunct to the school system as well.
    Hope follow through on this idea, becomes a big part of re-developing the city.
    (Also think that Fed. Gov’t. in Washington, DC, should expand some offices, etc. to other cities…….not impossible, since so much is now done via computer, etc. and having all departments in one city should end. Spread depts. throughout our wonderful country…. AGAIN, HOWEVER, THE FARM IDEA IS WONDERFUL AND LONG OVERDUE……..

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