A city long on the decline, Detroit now finds itself essentially in ruins. And yet, necessity being the mother of invention, Detroit is positioning itself as the forefront of the nation’s urban farming movement, using radical and innovative ideas outlined by Aaron Renn in this fascinating article. According to Renn, Detroit has become “a blank canvas” and “the ultimate arena in which to prove yourself” for urban farming and other alternative urban ideas.
Renn quotes Mark Dowie from Guernica:
“Were I an aspiring farmer in search of fertile land to buy and plow, I would seriously consider moving to Detroit. There is open land, fertile soil, ample water, willing labor, and a desperate demand for decent food. And there is plenty of community will behind the idea of turning the capital of American industry into an agrarian paradise. In fact, of all the cities in the world, Detroit may be best positioned to become the world’s first one hundred percent food self-sufficient city.”
Renn writes, “He documents several examples of people right now, today growing food in Detroit. It wouldn’t surprise me, frankly, if Detroit produces more food inside its borders today than any other traditional American city.”
“About five hundred small plots have been created by an international organization called Urban Farming, founded by acclaimed songwriter Taja Sevelle. Realizing that Detroit was the most agriculturally promising of the fourteen cities in five countries where Urban Farming now exists, Sevelle moved herself and her organization’s headquarters there last year. Her goal is to triple the amount of land under cultivation in Detroit every year. All food grown by Urban Farming is given free to the poor. According to Urban Farming’s Detroit manager, Michael Travis, that won’t change.”
Renn, “The fact that Urban Farming moved to Detroit is exactly the effect I’m talking about. To anyone with aspirations in this area, it is Detroit that offers the greatest opportunity to make your mark.”
Detroit seems to have turned into a vibrant incarnation of the American dream. A counter point to the idea of the wild untamed west, is this ruined, collapsed and abandoned west. The American imagination loves the idea of making something from nothing, in a setting of partial anarchy. Detroit has become a space to re-imagine urban American. And urban farming, Renn argues has been at the forefront of this re-envisioning.