Urban farming in places like Detroit (and elsewhere) has gotten a lot of good press, this blog included.
But the author of this piece, Richard Longworth says we shouldn’t necessarily be praising urban farming, but instead seeing it as a symptom of how far some cities have fallen. (We’ve written about Longworth, and his work at the Chicago Council’s Global Midwest Initiative before.) His suggestion? Better grocery options for central-city neighborhoods, including big box retailers like Wal-Mart.
Reading Longworth’s post reminded me of a speech I heard at last year’s GLUE (Great Lakes Urban Exchange) conference in Cleveland. The speaker, from the Genesee County (Flint) Landbank, said some in the urban planning community mistakenly might assume inner city residents are always enthusiastic about having an urban farm in their neighborhood. This isn’t necessarily true though, she pointed out. Some residents who migrated to Flint (or Detroit or Cleveland or wherever) came from a background of being rural sharecroppers in the South. A sizeable number of folks in the Flint community she dealt with were not enthused about farming in their neighborhoods, they wanted where they lived to feel like a city.
What do you think?
Next time you hear about Detroit having no national chain grocery stores, consider this post from Detroit blog Sweet Juniper. It highlights the city’s Honey Bee Market and its amazing food and people.
Here’s some of his description, “while Detroit may not have any national grocery chains, we do have more urban farms and gardens than any other city in America and we boast some of the best independent grocers around,” he writes.
“Honey Bee Market, so close to downtown, has become sort of the de facto supermarket for all types of downtown shoppers. Hispanic grandmothers inspect the cactus alongside gringo foodies clutching Rick Bayless recipes; hipsters park fixed-gear bikes next to professionals in spandex out for a lunchtime ride; wealthy condo dwellers wait in line behind mothers paying with their Bridge cards.”
Thanks to Rust Wire reader Vesna Radivojevic for bringing this story to our attention.
We’ve all heard and read plenty about how Rust Belt cities can use their vacant lands as space for urban farms and community gardens.
This article from the Los Angeles Times says some folks believe they could even make a profitable investment. Michigan native and financier John Hantz has invested an initial $30 million of his own money toward purchasing equipment and land in Detroit, according to the article.