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.
“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.”