Many of us are lucky enough to live in clean and vibrant communities, but there are some inner cities in the US that are plagued by poverty, unemployment, drugs, crime and sub-standard living conditions. Detroit, MI is one such area. I was flipping through a recent edition of the Utah Bar Journal (legal magazine) when one article really caught my eye. It was about some new efforts that are being made in inner city areas to rebuild a positive and sustainable community life that is focused around community gardens.
In Detroit, in particular, the local governments are paying a ton of money to provide services to areas that have been abandoned, burnt out, or just destroyed. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the citizens of detroit that is coming from an unexpected source- community gardening! Local gardens are popping up on abandoned city blocks, with the gardens being run completely by volunteers and the neighborhood locals. The communities with gardens have seen a surge of pride in their areas, with the result being less run down buildings and more improvements being made to buildings and lawns. Crime goes down, and people are able to eat healthier, fresher meals. Obviously these are all good things, but an interesting legal dilemma has now ensued. The downtown areas and ghettos of Detroit are all zoned for commercial and residential uses, not agriculture. So technically, many of these communities are in violation of City Code- especially the pocket farms that have goats or chickens also. The government wants to encourage these operations, but is not sure how to proceed. If they change the zoning regs, they could be opening the door to other issues including the disturbances of farm animals (noise, smells, etc.). This will be an interesting story to follow!
There is one larger operation in detroit called hantz farms (www.hantzfarmsdetroit.com) that is doing some really interesting things and is now the world’s largest urban farm! Below is some info from their website.
Introducing Hantz Farms™
It’s our dream to rejuvenate our city by returning to our agrarian roots, by creating the world’s largest urban farm right here in Detroit, a sustainable producer and seller of homegrown fruits and vegetables as well as clean energy. Owned, operated and staffed by Detroiters, Hantz Farms will provide:
- Hundreds of “green” jobs for local residents, with on-the-job education. We’ll help Detroit progress to the mixed economy that’s so important for our future.
- A generous supply of fresh, local, safe produce for our families and the region. Hantz Farms will be a year-round operation, providing spring vegetables, a bounty of summer produce, pick-your-own pumpkins and Christmas trees. Not only will we grow for Detroit, but we’ll also be able to export our produce.
- A cleaner, greener environment for our children. We’ll clear away the garbage, the blight, the debris, and in their place grow healthful crops and produce non-polluting wind energy. In every aspect of Hantz Farms, we plan to use only recyclable materials and aim to reduce waste to nearly zero. We’ll also reintroduce Detroiters to the beauty of nature.
- Synergy for local businesses. Tourists coming in to Detroit to visit Hantz Farms—not just for an annual event, but on a daily basis—will patronize other businesses as well.
- Consolidation of city resources. Detroit’s fire, police and public works departments can better serve city residents when freed from the burden of nearly abandoned neighborhoods.
We can build a new, green economy in Detroit, and lead the world by example.