Urban Farming in Detroit: Solutions for other De industrialized Cities – Antonia

De- industrialized cities throughout the country are currently suffering many problems. Detroit known as the Great American City and once was one of the largest in the country has suffered unimaginable affects from deindustrialization. Not only has deindustrialization in Detroit caused it to become a “shrinking” city, but the divide between race populations has had a huge impact on the city. White suburban sprawl that came as a response to a growing african american population during the Great Migration, caused huge depopulation and economic inequality. Many people inside and outside of the city see no hope for Detroit’s future, causing people to abandon the city in search for jobs and a new home. The abandonment of Detroit has allowed for the natural eco system to slowly return. Many abandoned buildings now have the non native Tree of Heaven growing out of them as well as many other considered weeds and animal life has begun to return. The vacant lots throughout the city have given many struggling families in the city hope for a future, vacant lots are transformed into urban gardens or farms providing healthy and cheap food. The history of urban farming in Detroit begins during the 1893 depression in 1894 by Mayor Hazen Pingree who saw allowing the unemployed to transform vacant lands into edible gardens an alternative means of charity. Detroit brings up many prevalent issues and solutions that can serve other cities throughout the country; suburban sprawl, food security, food deserts, income and racial inequality, urban vs nature separation, urban farming and education, community and entrepreneurship and most importantly rights to the city.

Urban farms in Detroit are not only providing access to healthy food; they are resources for education and guidance for teen mothers. At the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public school started in 1985, the school provides a viable option for teen mothers seeking support and education. Child care is offered for teen mothers attending the school, the classes offered focus mainly on practical homesteading and child care skills, connecting to the schools mission, “to prevent the pregnancy cycle from reoccurring in the next generation of infants” (Grown in Detroit). Some of the classes that school offers are; music, home repair, parenting, fine arts, and technology. One of the great successes of this school is its ability to meet the needs of teenage mothers, many pregnant teens are unable to go to school, because of their children, time and lack of money. At Catherine Ferguson teen mothers are their priority. The farm that is connected to their school provides all of the students access to food and urban farming education. This school offers a tangible vision of self reliance and a future to teen mothers. Part of the schools requirement is that their students attend college after the Academy. Solnit describes the image of the academy as “a school for teenage mothers that opens on to a working farm, complete with apple orchard, horses, ducks, long rows of cauliflower and broccoli, and a red barn the girls built themselves” (solnit 72). This unique and innovative school is not exempt from budget cuts, on April 15, 2011 the students of the Academy staged a sit in at their school’s library after they were told that their school would be closed. The police brutally disrupted the sit in, arresting the teenagers and smashing their cell phones. Many of the girls who spoke about the experience were proud that they stood up for their school, because “ It’s time for all of us to stand up, it’s our future. We can’t find another school that does what Catherine Ferguson does. I am thankful to BAMN and our supporters because they truly showed us we do have a sense of hope, that there is something you can do about what happens” (YOUNG MOTHER DESCRIBES OCCUPATION OF CATHERINE FERGUSON ACADEMY). After a long battle against the city the school has stayed opened, but not as a public school, rather a charter school. The transformation of this school from public to charter brings up the conversation of rights to the city. Who should decide if a school is shut down or if an urban garden is demolished? Do the citizens have a right to grow their own food and create the schools they want? All of these questions are essential to ask in the case of the Catherine Ferguson Academy as well as all other public schools in jeopardy of closing and urban farms that are in constant danger of being demolished. 





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