Urban Farming in Detroit

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AMY GOODMAN: Grace Lee Boggs, in Newark twenty-six people were killed in the rebellion, twenty-four of them African American, then a fire captain and a policeman. In Detroit, forty-three people were killed. How did that happen? Were there indictments? There were none in Newark. 

GRACE LEE BOGGS: There were not indictments. And the question of — I mean, the question — I think what I hear, Amy, is that we think that the question of justice is a question of whether we indict or whether we prosecute. And I think that we’re reaching another stage, where we have to see the question of justice in terms of how do we rebuild our communities, how do we restore our people, how do we as Americans with this terrible crisis that we’re in now, not only in our cities but across the world, how do we become human beings, how do we take another leap in our evolution as human beings.

The above was transcribed from a “Democracy Now” interview recorded on July 13, 2007. And my sincere thanks to Dr. Lester Spence for insisting that I become more informed about the unrecognized gold in my own back yard.

Yeah, I did say that Detroit needs at least one major grocery store chain and that it was a major blow to the city when Farmer Jack’s closed up its last two stores recently. I did say that. I confess. I also said, more or less, that anybody who says we can fill that gap by growing food in vacant lots and in our back yards has a balloon for a head. I said that I ain’t no damned vegetarian, have no intention of becoming one, and that even if we could provide the city with all the vegetables it needs by harvesting our blight with a little fertilizer, that still doesn’t solve my need for meat. You can’t harvest cows and pigs out of the ground. Chickens either.

I admit it. I did say these things. And furthermore, I stand by what I said.

However. Having said all that, I recently had the opportunity to become acquainted with an organization called Urban Farming that in barely two years has managed to do some rather amazing things right here in the city and is in the process of spreading the message nationwide. But Detroit is the base. What Urban Farming is doing is shedding lots of green light on Detroit’s overabundance of weed-choked vacant lots and creating food – free food – where once there was nothing but ugly. It’s not easy to coax a healthy cucumber plant out of a bed of cracked glass, cement, and syringes, but that is essentially what these folks have done. And it’s nothing short of amazing.

But what is even more amazing to me is the philosophy  behind the whole thing, promoted fervently by the project’s founder, Taja Sevelle, which is to use abandoned land to eradicate hunger in Detroit. I don’t know yet how convinced I am that such a massive task can be accomplished in such a way, but Taja is probably one of the most convincing folks I’ve met in awhile. If this thing can be done, she will truly find a way.

So no, I’m not saying that I no longer believe we need a grocery store chain in this city because we absolutely do. Mom and Pops can’t fill the gap, black-owned can’t fill the gap, and Urban Farming can’t fill the gap either. But what Urban Farming can  do is to help rebuild the city by helping to replace death, destruction and emptiness with food, hope, and community. This kind of vision goes a long way, and even when a chain does finally return to Detroit, projects like Urban Farming will continue to be a critical component of the ongoing process of rebuilding and re-imagining this city.  I truly believe that when you have fallen to the economic depths of where Detroit is right now, it will be the new day creativity, the energy, and the hell-let’s-just-try-it attitude of urban farmers such as Taja Sevelle, combined with the wisdom-guided direction of urban warriors such as Grace Lee Boggs  that will be what brings this city back.

Because, at the the end of the day when you’ve spent everything else, rampant creativity and determination are what kicks in to save the day.

“And I think that we’re reaching another stage, where we have to see the question of justice in terms of how do we rebuild our communities, how do we restore our people, how do we as Americans with this terrible crisis that we’re in now, not only in our cities but across the world, how do we become human beings, how do we take another leap in our evolution as human beings.”  

SHAMELESS PLUG FOR MY WIFE: http://thedspotredeux.blogspot.com/

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~ by Keith A. Owens on August 17, 2007.

15 Responses to “Urban Farming in Detroit”

  1. I love the idea of urban farming! It would be especially good if school kids or juveniles from detention centres could become involved. Its better than just hanging out in the streets! There could be so many benefits to communities.

  2. I love this post. It reminds me of the amazing good a little gardening can spread in a community. Going to figure out how i can help.

    In regards to bronzetrinity – there is a very cool guy in Detroit who is trying to put together a plan that would do just what you’ve mentioned…keep your fingers crossed.

  3. Bronze Trinity and Bedarling,

    Thanks much for stopping by and for your comments. This really is an amazing thing Taja has going on, and it deserves all the support it can get.

  4. Bronze Trinity,

    Almost forgot. I know that Urban Farming already has a component of its program that deals specifically with ex-cons, and I think the program focuses specifically on younger ex-offenders. This is a great thing for them.

  5. Fantastic! Plus a lot of people say gardening is relaxing and its physical. I hope it does catch on everywhere 🙂

  6. If they could expand the program to do old fashion canning, then they could help keep the panties filled year round. I see these gardens like Victory Gardens.

  7. Culturevital loves Detroit.Clearly the article, “Urban farming in Detroit” is a shameless, weak, thin sheet cover for attempts at bad-mouthing Detroit. That’s why the words “syringes” “cracked glass” “death destruction and emptiness” was so purposely planted. Still, Detroit, it’s Mayor and citizens will continue to create beauty and prosperity year after year. And “urban farming” will be a welcomed part of Detroit fantastic future. http://www.freewebs.com/culturevital

  8. Hathor,

    Sounds like a great idea! Who knows what the future may bring.

    Culturevital,

    I’m glad yuou love Detroit, and I’m sorry you can’t recognize that I love Detroit as much as you. Simply because I include descriptions of some of the less appealing aspects of our city doesn’t mean I hate it. You couldn’t be more wrong in your split second judgment of who I am and what I’m about. Or what this site is about. I have loved Detroit since the day I moved here 14 years ago, and have chosen to live here and make this city my home despite its challenges because of how much I love this city.

    You might want to gather a little more information before making such sweeping statements.

  9. How do I go by getting involved with the Urban Farming> I drove by a location in the Inner city and I mean it was a beautiful Site!!! please email me at mswhitehead411@yahoo.com

  10. Howtoria Whitehead,

    Thanks so much for dropping by and for your interest in Urban Farming. If you go down the right-hand side of my site down to where it lists “Detroit Community Organizations” you will see Urban Farming listed there. Or you can just click on the link in my post.

  11. keith i’m glad you took a look. if someone were to bring together her ideas about education with her ideas about urban design (which includes but is not limited to the farming stuff) they’d really be building the next generation of leaders.

  12. Keith: thank you for sharing information on Urban Farming. I never knew of the project or even the concept. I remember a guy in Detroit that used to turn garbage and trash into artwork. People would drive by his crib to see how he had manipulated the burnt out cars and such into works of art. I like the idea of growing some tomatoes and celery even better. Thanks again for sharing this information with us!

    peace, Villager

  13. […] once there was nothing but ugly. It??s not easy to coax a healthy cucumber plant out of a bed of crahttps://teamowens313.wordpress.com/2007/08/17/urban-farming-in-detroit/FEMA: Nuclear Power Plant EmergencyReports prepared by FEMA on the issues involved in nuclear […]

  14. wow.. grace lee boggs is kind of a clown– “Yeah, I did say that Detroit needs at least one major grocery store chain and that it was a major blow to the city when Farmer Jack’s closed up its last two stores recently. I did say that. I confess. I also said, more or less, that anybody who says we can fill that gap by growing food in vacant lots and in our back yards has a balloon for a head. I said that I ain’t no damned vegetarian, have no intention of becoming one, and that even if we could provide the city with all the vegetables it needs by harvesting our blight with a little fertilizer, that still doesn’t solve my need for meat. You can’t harvest cows and pigs out of the ground. Chickens either.”

    typical reactionary response, so many people are hung up on the notion that Urban farming= Plantation, adding an unnecessary racial spin to the debate. so many things can be done in green-based industry, especially involving young people, getting schools involved to adopt plots of land, have them available for students to work on during the year for credit..

  15. I was born and raised in Detroit, however, I have been a resident of WA state for a little over 20yrs now. Since that time I along with others have watched the not so fortunate happenings that have taken place in Detroit. Being born and raised in Detroit “myself” I must say to have seen what has taken place there through the years has pained me and my heart goes out to my family there and to all the other residents that reside there. To now khear of this farming endevor that is now being ready to I guess be fully implemented there, I find it to be sort strange and far from what Detroit has been used to- meaning in the pass of course Detroit was known as the “motor city,’ But hey it’s a new day Obama has shown us this! So I say this farming thing can be good for Detroit, different but good. It in-fact goes along with the change that Obama speaks of- but I also say that it can be a very good thing if Detroiters take part in implememting the farming there themselves, instead of letting outsiders come in to implememt the farming to avoid the dictatorship from others which may have something to gain from the farms that very well may not be of the best interest of those that live there”the Detroit natives”. I myself would love to be able to move back to my birth-place and help with this endevor but not am I willing to do so if this means that I am to be merely a farm-hand, and I am sure Detroiters are concerned about that too, if not they should be! I would love to see Detroit move ahead with this farming endevor but only if its a benifit to them to do so- meaning I would like the families there to get together and OWN THEIR FARMS! With their names on them. I think this is very possible because it is a new day! I would like very much to hear your reply on this.

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