28 October 2009

Farming Detroit?

It's difficult to describe just how hollowed-out the City of Detroit has become, or how cheaply vacant land (and even houses) can be had. As I like to tell people: if you ever have a little time to kill and want some entertainment, get on Google Earth and fly around Detroit for awhile. You'll be shocked at how much open space there is. Then get on Realtor.com and see how much land you can buy there, in some cases using the coins you can probably dig out of your sofa or from under the front seat of your car.

This piece from The Urbanophile takes an in-depth look at what's been happening to Detroit, and explores the possibilities available to entrepreneurs who are willing to think creatively about what to do with a city whose population has shrunk but whose boundaries have not. There is now some serious, organized urban gardening going on inside the city limits, and many have been exploring possibilities for more serious farming. The piece has a number of excellent links to other stories and bloggers who have also looked at other farming-related projects in and proposals for Detroit.

His conclusion bears reprinting verbatim:

As the focus on agriculture and even hunting show, in Detroit people are almost literally hearkening back to the formative days of the Midwest frontier, when pioneer settlers faced horrible conditions, tough odds, and often severe deprivation, but nevertheless built the foundation of the Midwest we know, and the culture that powered the industrial age. No doubt in the 19th century many of those sitting secure in their eastern citadels thought these homesteaders, hustlers, and fortune seekers crazy for leaving the comforts of civilization to head to places like Iowa and Chicago. But some saw the possibilities of what could be and heeded the call to “Go West, young man.” We’ve come full circle.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Well, you're right. And better to do "something" with that land, than nothing. But I wonder about the decades of nasty chemicals there? I cannot imagine that the urban enviroment, even abandoned, would be the best place to build a farm...not for decades...heavy metals, chemicals of all varieties/toxicities...uck.

But, given the options? It is probably the best. If they could plant something that is *not* for direct food consumption (Corn for biodiesel only? Cotton--probably too cold...Something that can be grown, to help clean it up on a molecular level...both the air and the ground. Green manures? Shoot, dandelions?

Anyway, not living up there, I'm obviously not as close to the subject as you are. But Detroit (and cities like it) have concerned me for some time. What do we do with these places? What do we do about the miles and miles of infrastructure that is being left behind, the detritus of our modern civilization? Litter, on a much larger scale, when we're talking about block after block of abandoned buildings, factories, roads, schools, hospitals...what do we DO with all of that? Rip it down and haul it where? Building on top of it is probably not the best option, nor the easiest.

What do you think, YF? Not trying to be confrontational, mind, just curious in a bewildered, 'what do we do *now*" sort of way.

Sad. Really sad. That's what I am when I see/read about the demise of these cities. And the lives that are left, clinging on in blind hope.