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Urban Harvest

Detroit’s latest crop of farmers reveals the depth of the city’s soil and soul

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Farms on abandoned land, gardens in backyards and neighborhoods have made Detroit the nation’s urban agricultural center, creating a sustainable food system, taking folks back to their southern roots and soothing souls.

Fiery red tomatoes, majestic purple eggplant, and sun yellow squash dot plots of land around Detroit. They are the bounty of the fall harvest, fresh produce that provides healthy eating options for many residents who might not otherwise have choices and an answer for a city designated a food desert.

In fact, so many people have begun farming tracts of abandoned land in Detroit, the city is grappling with how to manage issues that crop up when people farm in urban areas. Last month, city officials began holding community hearings on applying Michigan’s Right to Farm Act in Detroit. Additionally, Michigan State University has proposed a $100-acre, $100-million urban-farming research center in the city.

While these urban farmers look like they’re only passionatel
y digging in dirt, they are key players in Detroit’s reinvention. Instead of renovating buildings, though, they are building community, educating about the environment, strengthening the ecosystem and nourishing souls. There’s something healing in connecting with the land, something Detroit’s got plenty of.

So for them, the harvest is far more than the succulent sweet peppers, butternut squash and purple onions they’ve raised, it’s about sowing seeds in the city—growing Detroit, nurturing it, and watching it prosper.

Edith Floyd, Jerry Ann Hebron and Malik Yakini are among dozens of pioneering Detroiters who are forging new ground with their urban farming efforts. B.L.A.C. spotlights their love for their work, sense of community, and the opportunities they create.

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