To most readers of Grit Magazine, a farm is not a strange or unusual sight. Many readers live on farms. But to most city dwellers, a farm is as mysterious and distant as a tropical rainforest is to us. Many city kids have never seen how food is grown; they know only that it comes from a supermarket wrapped in plastic. Some cities have started busing school kids out on field trips (literally) to nearby farms so they can get a look at what a field of produce looks like. Many cities have parks, and maybe a horticultural garden, but not farm land. I bet the last place you’d think to look for farm land would be inside a major industrial city, such as… oh, say… Detroit. The Motor City. And you’d be wrong!
The city of Detroit has for years been the poster child for urban blight: having lost 25 percent of its population over the last decade and with roughly 40 of the city’s 139 square miles vacant, according to The Detroit Free Press. But the actions of some residents and organizations may be about to change all that.
In the wake of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, Detroit is rebranding itself as the D.I.Y. City, with projects such as urban farms, encouraging small businesses selling locally made products, and residents pitching in to handle municipal upkeep.
Bands of citizen volunteers have been swarming into vacant properties, abandoned and neglected by their owners, to cut grass, clear brush and pick up litter and debris. Many of the derelict homes are being razed by the city, but some feel there is a better way to go.