The ‘garden in the city’ is not a mere trend, and more than a mechanism for city dwellers to make meals with local products (like they do in ‘the country’); urban agriculture is a proven strategy for community building and business development, with great potential for profit — and Detroit is leading the way.
The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) project at 325 Horton Street in Detroit, MI, has received $100,000 in grants to repurpose a blighted home site, as reported less than a month ago. The 2,300-square-foot space will be redeveloped to include a cistern for urban irrigation, plus outdoor community recreational space with four gazebos and more than a dozen picnic tables created from recycled personal care product packaging. Target and Garnier have provided half the funding.
And this isn’t the only time Detroit has gone green. Take MUFI’s plan to create “America’s First Sustainable Urban Agrihood” on Brush Street in the City’s North End. Across the street from MUFI’s urban garden, the redesigned building will serve as the new garden headquarters, with administrative space, a multipurpose room for educational programs, yoga and cooking classes and community meetings, plus ‘incubator space’ for community members to start their own food businesses.
The Motown Movement, meanwhile, met its crowdfunding goal on April 19, 2017, and is committed to “rebuilding Detroit” by “transforming broken-down houses into self-sufficient homes,” using extra insulation to lower heating bills, installing energy-efficient heat pumps, building green roofs with solar panels to produce electricity and heat, turning surplus heat from surrounding factories and businesses into communal heat sources, leveraging rainwater to flush toilets and spray gardens, creating urban farms to engage the community, and turning domestic sewage into biogas and plant nutrients to be reused by the farms.
According to the Movement’s mission statement:
Before we visited Detroit, we expected to see an exceptional phenomenon happening: a metropolitan city in full decay. Instead, we saw a city putting itself back together and recovering its lost glory. What a resilience. This inexhaustible dedication inspired us as young architecture students. We see great potential in implementing simple but effective technologies that go along with the Motor City’s resilient, creative and independent spirit. Residents have not only shown us that they embrace bold bottom-up initiatives, but also that they have the urge, capacity and desire to realize change. That’s why the ideal city for our pilot project is Detroit: the do-it-yourself city.
Leading by Example
A 2013 study from UC Davis, Urban Agriculture Impacts; Social, Health, and Economic, illustrates the leading role Detroit has been playing for years in this field, using the home of the Lions and Tigers as an example five separate times — for (1) the City’s land inventory projects designed to support urban agriculture projects; (2) in regard to community development and the building of social capital; (3) as one of the most researched locations for community gardens, (4) as well as urban and entrepreneurial farms; and (5) for job creation and business incubation.
But, so what?
“For many cities, urban agriculture is seen as a strategy for business development, job training, community development, health education, democratic process, sustainable planning, and more,” writes Sheila Golden, the author of the UC Davis study.
“The most observed impact,” she continues, is the effect the agrihood has on residents. “Urban agriculture goes beyond the scope of growing food,… serving as an ‘agent of change’ for communities.”
And, Sheila’s not alone in her findings.
“We’ve seen a great degree of growth in the number of startups focused on setting up for-profit urban agriculture operations,” says Robert Puro, Editor-in-Chief of Seedstock, the leading news organization tracking sustainable agriculture ventures. “These operations take on many forms from rooftop, to hydroponic, to aquaponic farms, but the one thing that they all share in common is that they are driven by an understanding that the profit potential from robust consumer demand for local food is real and here to stay.”
A simple Google search produces a myriad of results on the subject.
‘The Socio-Economic Benefits of Urban Farming’
Richmond, Virginia, urban farmer Duron Chavis writes:
By addressing the health ramifications of food insecurity and food deserts while employing an empowerment model revolving around entrepreneurship and sustainable food systems, urban farming can catapult the city.
He cites a few major cities and developing nations that have experienced significant success taking advantage of this opportunity, including:
- Havana, Cuba
- Harare, Zimbabwe
- Negros, Phillippines
- Tanzania’s district of Dar es Salaam
- Kona Kai Farms in Berkeley, California
‘How Urban Agriculture Is Revitalizing Local Economies’
For The Huffington Post, Rohit Kumar, the creator of Brush with Bamboo, a brand of biodegradable toothbrushes, and a community manager for the major documentary film Generation Food (2015), lists four benefits of urban agriculture:
- Local food production keeps more dollars circulating within communities.
- Urban agriculture creates local jobs.
- Urban farms create new economic value from previous waste streams.
- The practice of farming promotes the development of marketable trades and crafts.
What it Means for Detroit
In Detroit, The Motown Movement, MUFI and others are changing the physical landscape and the urban experience, as well as supporting local entrepreneurs, through urban agriculture projects. The UC Davis study notes that, in the Motor City specifically, the urban agriculture movement “continues to produce more micro-businesses.”
And this is merely one of many ways in which Detroit is making its “Great American Comeback.” Corporate, commercial investment — led by the likes of billionaire Dan Gilbert (Quicken Loans, Cleveland Cavaliers), Amazon and JPMorgan Chase — is skyrocketing, and #NotJustDowntown.
What it Means for You
In the last half-decade, home values have grown at a faster pace in Detroit than in any other city in the United States — at more than 21%; yet, newly renovated investment properties across the Detroit Metro area are still selling for less than $40,000, and offering double-digit returns (ROI). In fact, according to Point2 Homes, an international real estate portal based in Canada, Detroit is the number-one city for US home buyers.
That means, if you’re looking to diversify your portfolio or produce passive income, and/or if you’re considering real estate investing specifically, Detroit has your answer. New tenant-occupied investment properties become available every day, and at Pioneer Homes we not only find you the right place, at the right price, we handle the due diligence, connect you with property managers, and deliver customer service unmatched in the City.