Sowing seeds of hope amidst the rubble
I owe a post on my interview with Will Allen but I need to say a few words about our trip to Detroit. I had heard so many things about Detroit before our trip. That it was the most fertile ground of America’s urban ag movement. That is was America’s most third world city. That the city was on its knees. That it was a post industrial urban wasteland. None of what I had heard and read could prepare me for what I’ve seen.
Detroit is a city where you can can’t drive a block in many neighborhoods without seeing burned down houses, abandoned houses and vacant lot and after vacant lot (where burned or abandoned houses once stood). It’s a grim landscape that looks like it had been through a war. But amid all the rubble there are signs of life.
I had heard so much about Detroit’s urban agricultural movement. I had interviewed several leaders of the city’s urban farming movement but it wasn’t until our crew started driving through the streets of east Detroit and met a woman named Edith that I got it. Edith’s street has more farms plots than than homes (14 to be exact). There used to be homes, but they’re gone now. They were abandoned, burned down and razed. Now it’s a street of farms. Edith’s farms. She’s eyeing a vacant, falling down house with broken glass windows as the future site of her compost piles.The street has been transformed. The country has come to city and one woman has transformed here block into a place of beauty and fresh food.
The jobs aren’t coming back to Detroit. The heydays of the Motor City will not return. But the Detroiters that stayed behind amid the ruins are creating a new beginning. They’re feeding themselves. They’re growing crops for market in a city abandoned by industrial capitalism. It’s revolutionary. It’s as if the destruction were necessary to reinvent the city.