Friday, October 22, 2010

Detroit: Urban Agriculture Tour

Finished up the Michigan Association of Planning's annual conference today with a great tour, and met some pretty fascinating Detroit people who are doing amazing things,.

Japanese journalists film us touring D-Town farm
In the morning we headed over to D-Town Farm, run by the Detroit Black Food Security Network on land in Detroit's Rouge Park.  The land is  leased from the City of Detroit for $1/year for 10 years.  Our host, Malik Yakini, chairman of the DBFSN as well as a Detroit Charter School principal, gave us a tour and an explanation of the DBFSN as well as the context in which it is doing its work.  The goal of D-Town farm is to create a model for urban agriculture and to achieve food security for Detroit's black population. D-Town sells produce at Eastern Market, other Farmer's markets in the City, and several restaurants.

Yakini says he is unapologetic about the intent of the DBFSN to advance black power and expressed the local grassroots movements' opposition to large-scale urban agriculture within City limits that does not have the interests of the community in mind.  We also discussed food policy issues; Yakini is on the Michigan Food Policy Council and is working to help develop policy within the city and at the state level that will help community-scale urban agriculture.

While we were there, Japanese journalists filmed our tour for a TV station, and a French radio reporter showed up, wanting to interview Yakini, who seemed used to the attention this project and others like it is garnering on the international stage.
Gwen, who came to Earthworks Urban Farm from Nebraska
 through Americorps

EarthWorks Urban Farm
Next we visited Earthworks Urban Farm, a project of the Capuchin monastery in partnership with Gleaners Food Bank, which has been in operation for ten years. Our tour host, Gwen, came to the Farm via an Americorps assignment and has stayed on through the end of this growing season.  She spoke of the need to engage the local African-American community in urban agriculture, noting that the movement is often led by young, white transplants. The Capuchin program trains local neighborhood residents in farming and gardening, and utilizes the produce in the soup kitchen, which serves neighborhood residents in need..

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