Deadline Now: Urban Agriculture
Friday, August 31, 2012 at 8:30 p.m.
Urban agriculture is tranforming blight into beauty as abandoned properties are converted into community gardens and farms, producing a bounty of fruits, vegetables, honey, eggs, fish and more healthful foods. One of the largest efforts is Hantz Farms Detroit. Closer to home, Toledo GROWs is the community gardening outreach program of Toledo Botanical Garden.
This week on "Deadline Now," Mike Score, the President of Hantz Farms Detroit, and Karen Ranney Wolkins, the Executive Director of Toledo Botanical Garden, join Jack Lessenberry to share the latest news about urban agriculture.
Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"
Three hundred years ago, the first French inhabitants of what they called Detroit would have been puzzled if you asked them about urban agriculture. For them, that’s what Detroit was: Urban agriculture. Soon after Cadillac founded the city in 1701, they began dividing up land into what would be called “ribbon farms."
Narrow agricultural tracts that included about 200 to 400 feet of riverfront property which then stretched inland for about three miles.
That sounds odd, but given transportation and other problems of the day, it worked pretty well. Toledo wasn’t founded till more than a century later, but at that time too, there also wasn’t much of a distinction between town and country.
Well, pendulums have a way of swinging, and soon city life was seen as hip and farming as a backwards occupation to be avoided.
I knew Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor, well enough that I think I can predict what his reaction would have been if, thirty years ago, someone had suggested that the city turn to urban farming to help its economy. His response would likely have been unprintable. Mayor Young thought Detroit’s hope lay in attracting new factories to replace the old ones that had left. He would have feared that those touting urban agriculture were out to restore the world of the plantation. My guess is that
Toledo’s mayors in the seventies and eighties might have simply found the concept quaint and bizarre.
Well, we are living in the post-manufacturing era now, in the sense that huge plants paying high wages for unskilled labor are a thing of the past. America’s older manufacturing cities have mostly lost population, and many have vacant urban space.
Using these areas for agriculture seems to make sense for a lot of reasons. Most of us, especially those living in cities, consume too few vegetables. The experts say we do better to eat as much locally grown food as possible. And anything that adds to the economy has to be a plus.
Urban agriculture is unlikely to be Toledo or Detroit’s total salvation. But it can be a piece of it. And anything positive helps.