Detroit: Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

Earthworks urban farm

Earthworks urban farm (Photo credit: detroitunspun)

Detroit’s economic woes, including the city’s recent filing for bankruptcy, have been well covered by mainstream media outlets.  What has been less talked about are the ways in which Detroit’s citizens have come together to make something good out of a bad situation.  They are taking Detroit’s numerous vacant lots and turning them into thriving urban farms.

The sprawling metropolis of Detroit, covering over 139 square miles, contains around 150,000 vacant lots, an area roughly the size of Manhattan.  But, instead of letting these areas lie empty and decaying, Detroit residents have come together to transform these spaces into community farms and gardens, providing a sustainable, locally based food source for the city.  One such group is D-Town Farm which has created a seven acre plot providing members of the community with healthy food options.

Urban farming has been popular over the past few years in many of America’s cities, as part of a growing movement to provide people with healthy, locally sourced food choices.  But Detroit has taken the lead, with more than 1,200 gardens in the city, more than any other urban area in the United States.  Urban farming not only provides food for those who grow it, but can also turn a profit of up to $30,000 per year, per acre.

For a city that has lost over half of its residents since 1970, this is a positive sign for an urban area that once housed nearly 2 million people.  The Detroit Future City planning project hopes to continue this trend and by 2050 have 29% of the city’s land devoted to landscape, a large portion of which would be farm land.

Reinventing Detroit will not be easy, but by developing its greatest asset, a huge amount of land, into profitable and healthy green spaces, the city may be able to save itself.





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James McComas

I bring a background in researching and writing to the Campaign Consultation team for my role as Administrative and Project Assistant. Prior to joining Campaign Consultation, I was a research intern for BUS 52, a year-long project which sought out organizations and individuals across the continental United States who worked to positively change their communities in innovative ways. I also assisted a journalist researching climate change issues. Read more.

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