Farming in Motown:
Is the future of Detroit food provisioning and access home-grown?
The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) is one of several urban farms that are trying to increase local production and food access in a bankrupt city.
Lauren Boone, Liz Ultee, Arun Agrawal, Joshua Newell, and K. Arthur Endsley
Detroit, birthplace of the American automobile industry and the City of Motown, has lost hundreds of thousands of tax-paying residents over the past several decades. The resulting hollowed-out neighborhoods have come to resemble what some have called the “urban prairie.” The residents who remain struggle with food insecurity, due in large part to a lack of local grocery stores and other sources of fresh, healthy food nearby. With so much vacant land (about 30,000 acres), many people, both residents and outsiders, believe the future of Detroit includes an outsized role for urban agriculture. The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) is one of many groups trying to increase local food security, improve diets, and support nutritional literacy by engaging local residents in sustainable agriculture. They have faced and continue to face considerable obstacles, including the wariness (and weariness) Detroit residents often feel towards would-be do-gooders from outside of the city. Their chief problem today is to secure the land they have been cultivating and preserve their legacy in the North End neighborhood, which is threatened by renewed interest in high-end housing and commercial development ahead of construction on a new rail line. The city needs such economic development to bring jobs and prosperity to its residents but, at least in this case, that goal seems to be at odds with the goals of building stronger communities and improving food security and public health.