In The News: Urban Farming in Detroit


Urban farming isn’t necessarily a new concept, but it is a concept that has been gaining momentum recently. Especially in Detroit where there are vast wastelands of empty lots and urban blight. I’ve followed along in the news for quite some time with a moderate amount of interest. More and more small scale farms have been popping up around town that, according to what I’ve read, seem to be having some success.

One group, Hantz Farms Inc. has been sorta “battling it out” with city council members to get approval to purchase a large area of land. A total of “1,500 blighted parcels on the city’s east side” according to the Detroit News. It seems they finally got approval thanks to the emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, and Gov. Rick Snyder. The plan is to clear the land and start a large scale tree farm.

Sounds great to me: clear the blight, plant grass and trees and most importantly… maintain it and pay taxes. However, it seems there are many opponents to the project including several council members. They believe the sale price is too cheap, and that it’s “dangerous” for someone to own so much land. SERIOUSLY??  We’re talking about vacant land here… land that is not being used for anything. Land that is not generating tax revenue. Land that has vacant structures that could possibly be drug dens or who knows (I’m not about to go investigate) I fail to see the bad here…

They’re selling the land too cheap? I don’t recall there ever being a time in my life where vacant land was scarce in Detroit and you really don’t see much competition by …well anyone to snatch up property in the ghetto. So in essence, the only value of this land is how much someone is willing to pay for it… if no one wants it, wouldn’t that make it’s value $0? Ok that a little extreme I’ll admit. And I’ll admit you can’t just go selling off land to any crackpot that comes along… but I still fail to see the risk here.

Even if the company cleared the land, planted the trees, and went under… the land is still better off. It also generated more income then it is currently. If 5 years down the road they sell the land off to someone else… it STILL is better off then it is now, and it STILL has generated more income then it is now. Of course those are big “ifs” and I don’t see any reason why anything like that would happen. In fact I’m sure it would take decades before the property values in and around the area rebounded enough for the company to get any sort of return on it’s investment by selling it off to someone else.

So that’s where I stand on the matter anyways. Any investment in the city of Detroit is a good investment. Clear the blight, take the neighborhoods back, repurpose the vacant land. I’ve also read something about sheep herders wanting to set up in Detroit… and the sheep can be used in place of lawn care services to keep the vacant lots maintained… we’ll see how that one progresses…

Weigh in on the topic. What do you think?

urban farming