Can Farming Heal the City of Detroit?

A recent article by Fortune highlighted the well known social and economic woes of Detroit and also proposed a unique solution to try to heal the Motor City – farming.ย  A financially well off Detroit resident, John Hantz, has proposed a radical idea to purchase large tracts of vacant, run down houses, remove the rotting houses, and return the land to productive agriculture use by creating a for-profit farm operation.

Creating a farm of this size would make it the largest of its kind in the country, and Hantz believes it could help the city by restoring tax delinquent and blighted properties to a state of agricultural and economic productivity.ย  Farms located within the city would also supply farm fresh produce to local markets and restaurants and provide desperately needed jobs to Detroit residents.

A pilot project, a 50 acre farm on the East side of Detroit, is scheduled to break ground this spring.ย  Eventually the project could consist of several farms within the city limits, each up to 300 acres in size, and employing high tech farming techniques like hydroponic and aeroponic growing, as well as greenhouses heated by active composting piles.ย  The hope is to start with crops like peaches, berries, plums, nectarines, heirloom tomatoes, and edible greens, and expand their offerings once the program is established.

John Hantz is a wealthy Detroit area resident, he made his fortune by founding his own asset management firm, who grew saddened as his daily commute took him past run down houses and fallow empty lots.ย  He has committed $30 million of his own money to the project and is hoping to secure additional monies to purchase land within the city.ย  Time will tell if the project is successful, and though there are already many small urban gardens in the city of Detroit (more than 900 according to the Detroit Agriculture Network), the pilot project alone will easily be the largest farm in the city.

For more information on urban life and food, you should read Becky’s article How Food Shapes Our Cities.

Photo Credit: LindaN on Wikimedia Commons with a Creative Commons License

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9 thoughts on “Can Farming Heal the City of Detroit?”

  1. Seems like a good idea to me… almost like getting back to high density towns separated by farmland that feeds the people in the area. Definitely more sustainable and reduces our reliance on fossil fuel.

  2. Local sustainable agriculture is a plus for any city. Having been to Detroit recently I heartily agree that this is a good fit for the city.

    I would suggest smaller farms. Micro or mini farms to allow for economic diversity. In other words , let the little man make a decent dignified living. A 300 acre farm takes a wealthy man or corporation to set up and operate.

    Giant agri-business are part of our economic problem as it stands now.

  3. Won’t this be ironic? One of the cities at the center of this nation’s Industrial Revolution embracing its agrarian roots. A sign of the times, perhaps?

    I think it’s a great idea, but I agree that the farm should be smaller. Another giant farm will only lead to more of the problems we already have.

  4. Intriguing concept. A 3-4 month growing season would need to be stretched to 8-9 months in SE MI to sustain adequate annual revenue. Now that would be an innovation worth sharing to other geographies around the World.

  5. Louise L. GAllone

    A WONDERFUL idea !! It is also nostalgic. In the 30s and 40s my dad and uncle farmed 10 acres on Detroit’s west side–Plymouth Road near Heyden Street, and Horace Mann Elementary. Oh, and we also had a large chicken coup.

  6. ohh ! yes one can utilize these waste lands which are thr in between these cities. Yes, Hydroponics and aeroponics growing can help you grow good quality and high yield crops, plants, fruits, flowers throughout the season . Hydroponic and aeroponic methods are the most safest and triple times ROI that you usually generate with the sesonal crops.

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  7. Such a great idea. I hoped the mayor of Detroit saw this. The best way to build anything up is to put work into to. The city of Detroit has one of the highest employment rates in the country and this would restore jobs while making the city a more green-friendly place. Love it

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