Before arriving in the Detroit/Flint I had heard about the reclamation of parts of the city for farming, and I had partly heard, and assumed that this was because large parts of the city is uninhabited. This is in part true.
There are indeed large parts of the city that are empty, people have left homes as 2 thirds of the population left, and factories shut down and were subsequently knocked down. The result is now that the city is too physically big to support so services like water, electricity and street lighting are stretched. In addition to that the social services, police and other law enforcement agencies for example, immigration control are also over stretched.
But farming and gardening is also about access – people that are poor left living in the city, unable to move because they are poor are unable to afford cars and therefore unable to drive to out of town ‘cheaper’ shopping for food and are then unable to access fresh food. The inner city grocery stores have also just shut down, this is particularly a problem in Flint – Flint is seen as a smaller version of Detroit in terms of it’s social and physical make up, and therefore also in it’s resulting breakdown.
As a result people have created their own farms and gardens to make their own produce, this is not particularly organised and it does not appear to be massive swaths of the city (which I had the impression it was) rather smaller patches gathered around housing blocks. Spirit of Hope Church is an example of a church trying to tackle the issue they have a large community garden, which provides 20,000 meals per year and they also give away 6 tonnes of produce per year.
Interestingly a large Whole Foods shop has just opened in the centre of Mid-Town which is the part of Detroit that is experiencing Gentrification, so now locals have access to fresh fruit and vegetables that they can’t afford!
This is a picture of me (and the Family) next to a food garden in Flint. On the otherside is Bobby and Andy they are both Flint residents, Bobby runs the Hope Mission working with and helping local people and Andy is a playwright working with young people in Flint.