Motown to Growtown: Detroit’s Urban Farming Revolution

Residents in a US city recovering from decades of urban decay are turning vacant plots of land into flourishing farms.

Rising from the ashes of decades of urban decay, the US city of Detroit is fast becoming an urban farming capital.

Many residents are now producing organic food locally – reducing the environmental footprint of their food by cutting down on carbon emissions from transport and on chemical inputs.

They are also helping revive communities as new green spaces and farmer’s markets crop up, providing neighbourhoods with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Plots of land range from backyards, to seven-acre (2.8 hectares) community farms, to plans for large-scale commercial farms.

In 2012, Al Jazeera met the local residents at the centre of the city’s urban farming revolution. Several years on, Rewind returns to visit them to see how the movement has progressed.

70-year-old Edith Floyd, an urban farming veteran, has expanded her farm from nine lots to 32 and has added a large hoop house, where she can grow fruits and vegetables year-round.

“We have broccoli, collards, green peppers and celery,” she explains.

She says she plans to keep on farming for years to come: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat. And if you don’t work, you get lazy and don’t want to do nothing. Work keeps me going. I like working.”

A few miles away, Mark Covington and his mother have also grown their farm.

“I want to say we only had eight lots and now we have 24 that we either keep cut or we grow something on,” Covington says.

He now keeps bees, which he says has tripled food production, and he has a host of new farm animals.

Both farmers have their communities in mind; Floyd contributes to a food bank, and people who have court-ordered volunteer hours can fulfil them on her farm instead of paying a fine or going to prison. Covington has purchased a nearby house for a community education centre, and also provides fresh food to the area.

“We have our turkey giveaway every year. We do 30 to 35 turkeys with a basket, so we’ll put kale and collards and string beans in with it, along with some other donations that we get,” he says.

“This is an asset to the city. Not just the neighbourhood but the city.”