Back in August, Detroit Make It Here – a site produced by Crain’s Detroit Business that is targeted at young professionals – had an interesting article titled The urban prairie: Detroit farms connect people, food that explores the rise of urban farming in Detroit.
They quote Bill Knudson, Michigan State University agriculture economist, saying that Detroit is among the cities showing leadership with urban farming and that 100 years ago, the land beneath the city was fertile farmland. He adds that “Traditional supermarkets have moved out of the inner cities and created a food desert. These farm communities increase access to healthier food and fresh produce to inner-city people â€¦ land around Detroit has an opportunity to be productive.”
27% of this land is vacant, says Ashley Atkinson of the Greening of Detroit, a collaborative that includes 320 family and 170 community gardens for a total of 80 acres.
The collaborative, formed in 2003, grows 41 different fruits and vegetables, and has extended its season into the fall so there are multiple harvests. The yield, which last year totaled 120 tons, is sold at farmers’ markets and to restaurants and food banks, but the majority ends up on family tables, she said. Many of the volunteers live near the farms they work on.
“We have the first opportunity for our city to be food-sufficient. We’re getting there, and it’s exciting to be part of that. The rest of the country is coming awake to the fact that food of the future needs to be local and grown in urban areas, where most of the people are,” Atkinson said.
One of the organizations they highlight is the Garden Resource Program, an effort to provide hundreds of home, school and community gardens access to resources and information to grow, harvest, prepare, and preserve food for their families in their backyards and neighborhoods. They have a copious links page that highlights some other organizations at the forefront of this new urban farming wave.
One organization that is leading the way is the Earthwork Urban Farm, a program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. The Capuchin’s are inspired by the spirit of St. Francis and through Earthworks, they work to restore the connection to the environment and community. Check out their site for many more photos and lots more information.