Posted on Fri, April 17, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
3 Comments | Categories: Farms and Farming, News, Current Events,
by Slow Food USA intern Carol Dacey-Charles
Detroit is currently home to 300 plus community farms and over 20 school gardens, and if John R. Hantz’s vision becomes real, Detroit could be home to the worlds largest urban farmabout the size of San Francisco. According to Hantzs press release Phase 1 would redevelopment about 70 Acres of vacant lots, and abandoned property on Detroits lower east side.
Hantz is consulting with Michigan State University to tap their expertise in soil and agricultural sciences, as well as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a U.S. leader in community-based food systems. While the farm plans to harvest wind energy and use geothermal heat and biomass fuel from recycling compostthere are some ecological concerns. Hantz Farms would use conventional, rather than organic farming methods. You can read the full story as reported in the Detroit Free Press, along with a drawing of part of the proposed farm.
Urban agriculture is not new to Detroit. In fact, it started way back during the Great Depression of the 1890’s when then-mayor and future governor Hazen Pingree divvied up all vacant lands in the city, nearly 400 acres, for food production in support of the poor and underemployed.
Currently, Detroit does have very productive, if smaller, community-based working farms and gardens that are energizing the community, feeding the poor and educating youth. Earthworks Urban Farm, in collaboration with the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, produces over 6000 pounds of food on just 3/4 of an acre. A great resource for urban farmers and community gardens in the Detroit area is found through the Detroit Agriculture Network.
An active organization serving the African-American community in Detroit is the Detroit Black Food Security Network. The DBFSN was formed in February 2006 to address food insecurity in Detroits Black community, and to organize members of that community to play a more active leadership role in the local food security movement. Another Detroit success through agriculture story comes from the organization Urban Farming that began in Detroit in 2005 with three gardens and in 2008 provided fresh produce for approximately 50,000 people across the nation and abroad.
Slow Food Detroit has partnered with the Detroit Agriculture Network helping to promote and support their work. Additionally they are very active with a full calendar of educational, community building and just plain fun events all centered around the rich food diversity of the Detroit region. A few of their upcoming events include; Building a Wood Fired Oven, a Summertime and Slow Food cooking class, a monthly book club, cooking demos at the International Womens Show and some a farm tour with a local lunch. Past events include a brewery tour and a dairy tour for Ice Cream month.
[Editor’s Late Addition: Hank Herrera from Food First had this to say on COMFOOD: “This proposal has some interesting elements. Mr. Hantz is a financier and his farm manager is also a financier, according to the press release they issued a week or so ago. In addition there are several prominent grassroots effort to develop urban agriculture as part of building a solution to community food insecurity in Detroit, emphasizing local, grassroots ownership and equity. But the Hantz Farm press release makes no mention of the grassroots efforts. Wouldn’t urban agriculture practitioners have a better chance of succeeding at urban agriculture and improving food access in vulnerable neighborhoods than financiers, no matter how well-intentioned? Finally Mr. Hantz apparently wants the City of Detroit to give him the land. What would keep the City of Detroit from deeding land to the grassroots urban agriculture organizations?”]