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Detroit: The Center of Urban Farming

When most people think of the city of Detroit, they think of how and where America went wrong. While there remain some longstanding virtues of the place, the Motor City has been in a steady decline for a few decades now, much of it owning to the nosedive the American Auto Industry took over 30 years ago. Over the past few decades the city has suffered with crime, urban flight, blight, declining property values (the average home in Detroit goes for a little over 12K) and more abandoned property than you could imagine. There are certainly reasons to be despondent when you think about Detroit, but there are also reasons, growing reasons, to be incredibly optimistic as well.

While it may be hard for most people to imagine, Detroit has become the center of urban farming in the United States, largely due to all of the abandoned lots and food deserts that exist in some of poorest parts of the city. Instead of allowing these spots to remain fallow and littered with weeds and rusting automotive parts, communities are taking action and turning these open spaces into a sustainable food system. Mark MacInnis, a filmmaker and native of Detroit, directed his lens to the budding urban farming movement in his hometown and made a short film titled Urban Roots. The film takes a critical look at the industrial collapse of Detroit and how, through the dedication of a few individuals and urban farms, a new economy is rising out of the ashes (see the trailer below):

Urban Roots Trailer from Tree Media on Vimeo.

The film is uber-positive and shows how a grass roots movement can arise in a place where there was really nothing left to lose. It was because of this decline that people were able to reinvent the landscape and community to serve the most basic of needs — nutrition and nourishment.

The film is currently touring around the country and the urban farming movement is continuing to grow, not just in economically depressed Detroit, but in places like Denver, Austin, Brooklyn (on rooftops), and just about any American city you can think of.

Do you think urban farming can change the way city dwellers eat on a daily basis? Is it an economically viable model, or just something that works when times are hard and land is cheap?

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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10:58AM PST on Jan 27, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

8:37AM PST on Jan 23, 2013

I've from the suburbs into the heart of the city of Detroit myself and seen some of these patches of land given over to gardening and crop growing. I've even seen pheasants and some wild turkeys in the more wooded areas. There is a great deal of possibility here. It takes interest, effort, and hard work, but it can be done! I'm rooting - no pun intended - for Detroit to restructure its whole layout with a patchquilt organization of industrial areas, residential areas, commercial areas, urban farming areas, and parks & recreational areas!

10:35AM PDT on May 25, 2012

Two thumbs WAY up and hope it catches on

9:01AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

I sent this to a friend who is a chef in MI. THX!

7:37AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012


5:26PM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

thanks :)

8:08PM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

Inspiring. I think we should all grow our food locally-it's way better for the environment!

8:39AM PDT on Apr 27, 2012


5:51AM PDT on Apr 25, 2012

Thanks for the article.

12:08AM PDT on Apr 25, 2012

Amazing. Urban farming is a windeful idea

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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