[permaculture] Food Among the Ruins

Keith Johnson keithdj at mindspring.com
Mon Aug 17 00:12:53 EDT 2009

      Food Among the Ruins

by Mark Dowie
Guernica - a magazine of art and politics <http://www.guernicamag.com/>
August, 2009
Mark Dowie is an investigative historian living in Point Reyes Station, 


“There are more visionaries in Detroit than in most Rust-Belt cities, 
and thus more visions of a community rising from the ashes of a moribund 
industry to become, if not an urban paradise, something close to it. The 
most intriguing visionaries in Detroit, at least the ones who drew me to 
the city, were those who imagine growing food among the ruins—chard and 
tomatoes on vacant lots (there are over 103,000 in the city, sixty 
thousand owned by the city), orchards on former school grounds, 
mushrooms in open basements, fish in abandoned factories, hydroponics in 
bankrupt department stores,

livestock grazing on former golf courses, high-rise farms in old hotels, 
vermiculture, permaculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, waving wheat where 
cars were once test-driven, and winter greens sprouting inside the 
frames of single-story bungalows stripped of their skin and re-sided 
with Plexiglas—a homemade greenhouse. Those are just a few of the 
agricultural technologies envisioned for the urban prairie Detroit has 

“There are also proposals on the mayor’s desk to rezone vast sections 
A-something (“A” for agriculture), and a proposed master plan that would 
move the few people residing in lonely, besotted neighborhoods into 
Detroit’s nine loosely defined villages and turn the rest of the city 
into open farmland. An American Institute of Architects panel concludes 
that all Detroit’s residents could fit comfortably in fifty square miles 
of land. Much of the remaining ninety square miles could be farmed. Were 
that to happen, and a substantial investment was made in greenhouses, 
vertical farms, and aquaponic systems, Detroit could be producing 
protein and fibre 365 days a year and soon become the first and only 
city in the world to produce close to 100 percent of its food supply 
within its city limits. No semis hauling groceries, no out-of-town truck 
farmers, no food dealers. And no chain stores need move back. Everything 
eaten in the city could be grown in the city and distributed to locally 
owned and operated stores and co-ops. I met no one in Detroit who 
believed that was impossible, but only a few who believed it would 
happen. It could, but not without a lot of political and community will.”


Keith Johnson
"Be fruitful and mulch apply."
Permaculture Activist Magazine
PO Box 5516, Bloomington, IN 47407
(812) 335-0383
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