Photo by Ashley Atkinson, The Greening of Detroit

Throughout history, Detroit has been a city of innovation. It has been the birthplace of the automobile, the American labor movement, civil rights icons and the unforgettable Motown sound. As we move into a new era, with a little imagination and our sleeves rolled high, Detroit could become the birthplace of a new way of urban living: where fine food meets the family farm.

With 84,000 parcels within the city limits vacant, Detroit is rife with opportunity: a potential organic food mecca erupting with fields of juicy yellow corn, stands of brilliant sunflowers and formerly vacant warehouses brimming with hydroponically-grown organic salad greens. These concepts could provide Detroiters access to fresh, nutritious food, while serving as new economic development tools in the fastest-growing sector of the food economy: organic and local foods. Moreover, we could dramatically reduce our use of fossil fuels by purchasing fresh, locally-grown organic foods instead of weary produce trucked in from across the country, fertilized by petroleum-based fertilizers.

This movement is already well underway in Detroit, with over 1,200 community, backyard, church and school gardens and farms producing over 160 tons of organic produce in 2009 alone. Thousands of urban farmers are learning advanced methods of bio-intensive, organic urban agriculture, including four-season growing (or, year-round production): hoop houses and green houses are a growing part of our urban landscape. Community organizers are utilizing neighborhood gardens to improve security, community engagement and the health and beauty of their neighborhoods, and a generation of children are beginning to reconnect with the earth and its bounty through composting, planting, growing, harvesting, preparing and selling the foods that they grow.

As advocates for sustainable economics, Avalon continues to embrace this vision every day by purchasing local and organically-grown foods whenever possible, some grown in the ground that we helped to fertilize with our compost. We also support collaboratives like Garden Resource Project and its “Grown in Detroit” cooperative of over 90 urban farmers. Through teaching farming and entrepreneurial and collaborative business practices, these programs are planting the seeds of a new economic path in Detroit. While we were in this virtually alone when we started, now dozens of local restaurants are seeking out Detroit-grown produce contributing to the rapid growth of this economic sector.

To support this vision in Detroit, contact WWW.DETROITAGRICULTURE.ORG or contact any of the organizations in the Garden Resource Project listed below.

The Greening of Detroit
Detroit Agriculture Network
EarthWorks Urban Farm
Capuchin Soup Kitchen
Michigan State Extension Office of Wayne County
work in partnership with over 185 other organizations (including Black Community Food Security Network ) and hundreds of individuals to support urban gardening and farming initiatives in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park through the Garden Resource Collaborative.

Learn more about local food production, nationally. WWW.FOODROUTES.ORG

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