August 30 2013

Detroit’s Urban Agriculture Ordinance Inspires Changes to Vacant Lots

D-Town Farms, Detroit

If you take a break from the media coverage of Detroit that focuses on the City’s ever-increasing unemployment rate, ample vacant land and rampant blight, you will notice some optimistic trends in sustainability, from organizing around transit justice to increased biking. Another huge trend here turns those vacant parcels of land you read so much about into viable urban farms.

Following much controversy and an endorsement in the Detroit Works Project’s Future City Framework, passionate urban farmers in Detroit are now protected by the City’s urban agriculture ordinance, passed in April of 2013. The new ordinance, put together by a consortium of organizations – like Wayne State University’s School of Planning and Law, and Detroit farms like Feedom Freedom and D-Town – provides definitions of and regulations for urban farms (larger than one acre) and urban gardens (less than one acre). The formality of the ordinance provides a foundation that will hopefully maintain this movement as a primarily small and grassroots one.

Detroit Eastern Market

Detroit’s urban agriculture ordinance states that residential urban garden properties are allowed to sell their produce from small stands on their property. Meanwhile, larger farms are bringing their harvest to farmers markets and even to Detroit’s first Whole Foods store. According to a recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture, the State of Michigan has the fourth-largest number of farmers markets in the nation; and Detroit’s Eastern Market is becoming increasingly popular in the area. Eastern Market strives to be the preeminent source for fresh and nutritious food in the Detroit area and many of the City’s urban farms have been bringing their produce to market every Saturday.

With such an emphasis on urban agriculture in the City’s urban planning platform, it will be interesting to see the trajectory of the movement. How does a city strike a balance between the popularity of urban farming and the traditional definition of an urban area?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Meg Mulhall

Meg Mulhall is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. She calls Kalamazoo, Michigan her hometown but is currently exploring community organizing and urban planning efforts in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan. Planning to pursue a degree in either public policy or political science, Meg is interested in the relationship between government and non-governmental organizations and how those relationships can help remedy the lack of responsible and smart planning-related policies.

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This entry was posted on Friday, August 30th, 2013 at 9:46 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, Government/Politics, Land Use, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


4 Responses to “Detroit’s Urban Agriculture Ordinance Inspires Changes to Vacant Lots”

  1. Vanessa Vaile Says:

    if not the scale of urban farming, gardens and farmers markets played a significant role in New Orleans’ post-Katrina recovery. Is it enough and in time for Detroit? I hope so and would add that sustainability – food security – should not be overshadowed by commerce. I live, not in city, but in a small rural community that has seen better times. Relative to szie and population, there are a lot of vacant lots and abandoned houses here too. I see Detroit is doing and think, “we could do that here too.”

  2. Meg Mulhall Says:

    Thanks for your comment, Vanessa. I’d love to look into the role of urban farming in New Orleans. As for Detroit, I think the urban farming trend has been very transformative on the food security and community involvement fronts. I agree with your point that this movement shouldn’t be overshadowed by the consumerism that is probably behind a lot of the problems we’re seeing in our American post-industrial cities (check out my post on the Hantz Farms controversy from earlier this year).

  3. Scott Overmyer Says:

    I’d like to start a urban vineyard and winery in Detroit if the city would allow it. Could eventually employ about 25 people. Could be fun, too.

  4. Meg Mulhall Says:

    Scott, thanks for the comment. An urban vineyard is definitely an interesting offshoot of the urban agriculture trend. Let’s see what you can do!

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