Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Visiting Detroit's urban gardens

On August 5, I was one of more than 800 people who set off by bus or bike from the Catherine Ferguson Academy to see some of Detroit's urban gardens and farms. The Detroit Agricultural Network hosts the sold-out tour every August.

My tour group hit the West Side. First stop: D-Town Farm. Run by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, D-Town Farm is a 2-acre farm located in Rouge Park in northwest Detroit. The farm includes "organic vegetable plots, two bee hives, a hoop house for year round food production, and a composting operation" and "is grown using sustainable, chemical-free practices, and sold at D-Town farm, Eastern Market, and urban growers markets throughout Detroit."

Then we stopped at the Brightmoor Community Garden, a market-garden operated by thirteen youth ages 9-17. Last year they earned $1,500 selling some 1,200 lbs of produce. The photos are from a beautiful family/community garden just down the street, complete with a hen house!

Our last stop was Eden Gardens, a pair of large gardens on either side of Strathmoor Street.

Finally we returned to Catherine Ferguson Academy for a delicious vegetarian meal made from all local ingredients and cooked by chefs from Detroit restaurants.  I wandered the grounds as the sun went down, admiring the goats and horses.

It was a remarkable tour. All told the Garden Resource Program now supplies 244 community gardens, 517 family gardens, and 48 schools, and it's changing the face of Detroit.


the walking man said...

Out of curiosity: who are you and where do you spend your nights sleeping?

Cooper said...

Your phrasing is just a little too creepy for me to respond in detail. Let's just say I'm a committed Detroiter.

Tija Spitsberg said...

The urban garden is a wonderful concept. But what happens when the gardens overtake the city? Will Detroit then be rural rather than urban? No that "city" might not be redefined by urban planners and othres. I must say, though that I love urban noise and urban energy and wish only to retreat to the country for rest and respite.

Cooper said...

I don't think urban gardening takes away from urban density. In fact, it's a response to the fact that the city is already becoming more rural due to population loss. Drive through Brightmoor, for example, and you'll see empty homes and vacant lots on block after block.

To keep stronger neighborhoods intact, neighbors are planting gardens to fill in the gaps between houses and build a sense of community on the block. Gardens also keep empty lots from becoming illegal dumping grounds like so much land in Detroit.

But it's true that Detroit is becoming a unique city in that different parts are variously becoming more urban, suburban, or rural. The urban core is getting denser, some neighborhoods are becoming almost rural, and most new development seems more suburban than urban. Like you, I prefer the energy of a dense, urban neighborhood, but the truth is that most of Detroit simply won't retain that vibe -- not unless the 56-year trend of population loss reverses itself citywide.