Detroit to spend $15 M on new urban agriculture project

Hi, all this is Josh Calhoun with the Agricultural Marketing class, and here’s what’s happening:

I recently read up on the relatively recent urban farming movement going on in Detroit.  They’re starting to set a precedent in the United States for planned farming communities within large city limits:

On October 26, 2015, Mayor Mike Duggan announced a plan that will turn 22 decrepit blocks of Detroit’s east side, a whopping 60 acre footprint, into growing space, utilizing greenhouses, hoop houses, and other agricultural businesses including those practicing hydroponics.  35 acres of this area are vacant, and all condemned structures will be leveled to make room.  For $105 per acre, the city wants to lease the vacant 35 acres to RecoveryPark, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping vets, recovering addicts, and ex-offenders find jobs.  Within three years, the project would hire up to 128 employees, 60% to be residents of Detroit.  The whole plan is to be managed by RecoveryPark Farms, the for-profit side of RecoveryPark, but still needs to be approved by the Detroit City Council, hopefully by next week.

Of the $15 million needed to fund the five-year project, only $1 million has been raised so far, but hopes are high.  The first structures to go up this coming spring will be hoop houses on 3 to 5 acres, with a minimum of 20 acres slotted for use by hydroponics and hoop houses within three years.

About the impact of the plan, Mayor Duggan said, “We are not just transforming property.  We are going to transform lives.  They are taking the hardest to employ folks in our community and putting them to work on land that had been long abandoned and forgotten.”

Produce grown on this property will go to supplying area high-end restaurants, over 400 eventually, with specialty vegetables: edible flowers like nasturtiums and pansies, and veggies like micro greens, breakfast radishes and striped carrots.

This all looks good on paper, and good intentions are out there.  The only question I ask is, Detroit may be helping out a few folks that need jobs and beautifying a very ugly section of the city, but why only supply high-end restaurants?  Why can’t the city as a whole benefit from such a great idea?  There are some wonderful community farming organizations in Detroit, why not get them involved as well?  One can only hope for the best.

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