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Reuters News – Detroit’s Big Dig: Will Urban Farming Get Them Out of the Hole?

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The number of empty plots and abandoned homes, and estimates vary wildly, going as high as 100,000

By Nick Carey
Reuters
February 19, 2013

Excerpt:

There are also an estimated 2,000 city gardens, which environmental activist Shea Howell says popped up years before the idea of urban farming surfaced. “They are operated extra-legally or illegally, but the city has bigger things to worry about than going after someone raising a few chickens,” she said.

Kirk Mayes of the Brightmoor Alliance, in one of the city’s poorest areas, says there are 200 community gardens in Brightmoor alone. As farming is imagined for Detroit’s future, abandoned land would provide fruit and vegetables to the city’s inhabitants, for whom fresh food is often not accessible because grocery stores are few and far between.

City and county officials have no hard figures on the number of empty plots and abandoned homes, and estimates vary wildly, going as high as 100,000. “What’s clear is we have space for a million people who are no longer there,” Szymanski said. Much of that land could revert to scrub land or, as part of Detroit Future City’s vision, become “blue-green” corridors to reduce pollution and help drainage in a city with an inadequate, ancient sewer system that cannot handle storm water.

Hantz Farms is a recent addition to the cityscape. Backed by John Hantz, a local investor, the group won city approval to buy 140 acres of land, or 1,500 parcels, for $600,000. The group plans to plant 15,000 hardwood trees that will take 40 to 60 years to mature before harvest. The parcels where trees will be planted are in sparsely populated neighborhoods and will often not be contiguous. Hantz Farms originally wanted to plant fruit and vegetables, but local inhabitants worried about rodents.

Read the complete article here.