[permaculture] BBC NEWS | Problems w/ Urban farming in Detroit

trevor william johnson john2116 at msu.edu
Fri Jul 11 20:37:23 EDT 2008

I am from detroit and have worked with this woman and i feel i should  
share my experience.  her gardening methods are dangerous.  she has  
lays landscape fabric down, then compost and then plants a garden.   
lead is a huge problem in detroit and she has not taken that into  
consideration in garden placement.  she is poisoning one of the most  
vulnerable populations in detroit...impoverished urban people.  i  
read the story and it appears she has people and community behind  
her.  this all happens after the garden is created.  this is not a  
grassroots effort but a top down ego-fest.  she has even gone so far  
as to bad mouth two amazing grass roots organizations the Greening of  
Detroit and the Detroit Agriculture Network.


On Jul 10, 2008, at 10:52 PM, Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:

> <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.
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