The Motor City's Newest Plants Detroit, as you may have heard, has some problems. It was hit by the economic collapse, but it...
The Motor City's Newest PlantsDetroit, as you may have heard, has some problems. It was hit by the economic collapse, but it was in trouble already with rapid depopulation, perennial violence, and joblessness through the roof. Despite all that-or perhaps because of it-Detroit is becoming a haven for urban farming: an example to which other cities can look."We are really very collaborative and community-based. We all work together," says Ashley Atkinson, the director of urban agriculture and project development at the Greening of Detroit, which together with three other organizations supports the Garden Resource Program Collaborative (GRP)-a network of more than 850 thriving Detroit gardens.What makes the Detroit model so special? In addition to their large annual yields, the farms show strong community involvement and rate of return-over 80 percent of the gardeners in the GRP return to the program each spring. "More importantly," says Atkinson, "it means these gardeners continue to provide all of the benefits that urban gardens bring to Detroit neighborhoods year after year, such as food access, neighborhood stability, property-value increases, crime reduction, social capital, and youth enrichment." And that's what makes the Detroit model so smart: At a time when a massive commercial farm may also be setting up shop plunk in the middle of town, (a proposal is being vetted by the city council), it's clearer than ever that the grassroots farms are not just about business and food production. Instead, they're about using those things to create community involvement, long-term sustainability, and real results. Other cities: take note.