[permaculture] BBC NEWS | Americas | Urban farming takes root in Detroit

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lflj at intrex.net
Thu Jul 10 22:52:09 EDT 2008


<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7495717.stm>
Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 11:59 UK
Urban farming takes root in Detroit

By Matthew Wells
BBC News, Detroit

Could growing fresh vegetables help save crumbling inner cities around the world and tackle hunger?

Reginald Moore and Rod Shepard hoe the ground
Putting in the spade-work at one of the charity's gardens

That is the ambitious aim of a charity called Urban Farming, which has its headquarters in Detroit, the capital of the 
US's wilting car industry.

The idea is very simple: turn wasteland into free vegetable gardens and feed the poor people who live nearby.

Motown has lost more than a million residents since its heyday in the 1950s and it is common to see downtown residential 
streets with just a few houses left standing.

Taja Sevelle saw the hundreds of hectares of vacant land in the city and came up with the idea of creating an organic 
self-help movement that would be "affordable (and) practical".

Beginning three years ago, armed with $5,000 (£2,500) and a pamphlet, the singer and entrepreneur managed to win a wide 
cross-section of support around the city. Now her charity is expanding across the US.

Ms Sevelle is also keen to discuss her ideas with the new Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

With a handful of full-time staff, Urban Farming co-ordinates the cultivation of what amounts to 500 family-sized 
gardens across Detroit.

No greed

Visiting one of the largest allotments, on a site that had been derelict since Detroit's infamous 1967 riots, locals 
spoke about an astonishing transformation.

Derelict building overgrown with weeds and vegetation in Detroit
Derelict streets highlight Detroit's tough past and present

"There is something that every hand in this area can do," said Rose Stallard, who is keen to enlist as many volunteers 
as possible to help tend the garden and its precious crops.

As she organises a band of eager helpers to pull greens from the rich top-soil, Ms Stallard says food is more expensive 
than ever and neighbourhood shops are scarce.

"That's one cucumber you didn't have to pay 69 cents for," she adds, with a smile.

There are no fences but one local said greed had not been a problem.

"People are only taking what they need, because they know it's for everybody," he said.

Collective wisdom

Many of the regular gardeners come from rehabilitation programmes linked to the county jail.

Offenders say they have earned self-respect, as well as local thanks, for literally doing the spade-work.

"It's good for me to know that I'm helping somebody, instead of hurting somebody," said Reginald Moore.

Taja and Rose discuss crops
Taja Sevelle and Rose Stallard are keen to expand their work

"All this is positive. Next year, you'll see this all over," added Rod Shepard.

Providing free food on the doorstep brings people together and spreads collective wisdom, according to local city hall 
manager Gail Carr.

"Fresh fruits and vegetables are something that we all need. And we really, really need to educate our children in that 
area.

"If we don't, we're going to have a lost generation to many diseases such as diabetes," she said.

The local sheriff's liaison officer, Beth Roberts, said that crime figures had improved wherever Urban Farming took root.

Growing crops also marked a return to slower but better times, she said.

"We used to do this in our backyards. This used to be a culture, a way of life, so we're restoring that through urban 
farming."

Future plans

As the charity expands, it remains to be seen if enough local people will do the groundwork to keep the gardens blooming.

Showing off prize greens from a Detroit urban farm
Time to benefit from all the hard work
But the idea of permanent social change, away from the old industrial core, is something that Detroit sorely needs, 
according to the editorial page editor of the Detroit News, Nolan Finley.

"Today's reality is that we have a lot of vacant space, and not much economic opportunity," he said.

"You could have urban farming - you could have livestock in some of these stretches of empty land.

"You could reforest it into tree farms so you're not maintaining a sidewalk, a power line, for a street that has two 
houses on it."

The conversion from Motown to Growtown may seem far-fetched, but given Detroit's economic woes, marketable ideas are in 
big demand.

E-mail this to a friend 	Printable version
Bookmark with:

     * Delicious
     * Digg
     * reddit
     * Facebook
     * StumbleUpon

FOOD PRICE CRISIS

KEY STORIES
Stop wasting food, Brown urging
China to increase grain output
Pakistan's poor hit as food prices soar
Long era of cheap food is over
Corn prices surge to record high
UN plan to increase food supplies
FEATURES
Indian child Face of hunger
Malnutrition worsens with rising prices in India
Biofuel: Hero to zero?
Ethiopia's 'green' drought
Tortilla price shock
Could GM crops help feed Africa?
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
Challenges for the food summit
Cost of food facts
Q&A: Rising world food prices

PERSONAL STORIES
Impact on six families
HAVE YOUR SAY
Should we try to waste less food?

RELATED BBC LINKS
Growing fruit and vegetables

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
Urban Farming
Food Up Front
Sustain
Growing Power






More information about the permaculture mailing list