Monday, June 28, 2010

Urban Agriculture

The City of Detroit, once the center of technology and steel production, is now famously part of the "rust belt" of dying industries and decimated landscape that was formerly a farming region. It is facing this issue with a program of implementing a regenerative strategy through urban agriculture. The concept has been roughly presented as urban villages with connections across large areas of agriculture.

Several organizations and businesses have made a commitment to this new "local foods" movement, including Hantz Farms, which operates on the for-profit model. John Hantz has a vision of restoring Detroit with a pledge of $30 million to kick off the transformation of Detroit from a degenerated Motor City into a region of agriculture that can supply fresh food and revitalized infrastructure to the Detroit area.

A more comprehensive dialogue of how this may be implemented is occurring, through partnership with non-profits, showing how the worker-owned cooperative system could work - based upon Spain's Mondragon Corporacion Cooperativa. This initiative to regenerate Detroit with urban agriculture has become the focus of a collaborative garden resource program, with many nonprofits gearing up to educate individuals and get programs started across the region.

Specifically, the nonprofit SHAR is instituting a plan called Recovery Park, using resources provided by the Design Center of the University of Detroit Mercy. Research and development is being spearheaded by Charles Cross with a Recovery Grant.

A more detailed, and skeptical, discussion of the Recovery Park model is on this blogsite. To quote:

To be fair, I have heard about some urban farming models that seem to make more sense. They are not top-down, corporate models, but community empowerment models. Like the proposed Recovery Park, a public-private-nonprofit, 2,000-acre development headed by the Shar Foundation. A 30-acre pilot farm will be only one component of the development that will also include housing, commercial development, educational programs and green spaces.

At $220 million, the project promises 4,000 permanent jobs over the next 10 years. That number of jobs is high but hopeful, since the project isn't only about farming but also about housing demolition, soil preparation, food processing, hydroponics, indoor fish farms, an equestrian boarding operation. It will even include a for-profit clothing business, according to Crain's Detroit Business.