Detroit’s Good Food Cure
–by Larry Gabriel, Yes Magazine, Oct 25, 2012
Weekend mornings are the busiest days of the week at D-Town Farm. That’s when up to 30 volunteers from across Detroit come out to till the earth and tend the crops at the seven-acre mini-farm on the city’s west side. They sow, hoe, prune, compost, trap pest animals, build paths and fences, and harvest—all the activities necessary to grow healthy organic fruits and vegetables to nurture the community. There is a 1.5-acre vegetable garden, a 150-square-foot garlic plot, a small apple orchard, numerous beds of salad greens in a couple of hoop houses, a small apiary, and a plot of medicinal herbs such as purslane, burdock, and white thistle.
“One of our goals is to present healthy eating to people,” says Malik Yakini, Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), which runs D-Town. “We think that healthy eating optimizes a good life generally. A diet close to nature allows the human body to function the way it is supposed to function.”
D-Town is set in one of the city’s greenest areas, a former tree nursery in the 1,184-acre River Rouge Park. It’s a couple of miles downriver from Ford Motor Co.’s famous Rouge plant (that once employed 100,000 workers) and about a mile upriver from the Brightmoor, a formerly devastated neighborhood that boasts no fewer than 22 community gardens. The Detroit City Council granted use of the land to DBCFSN in 2008. Deer ate up most of the first crop: Volunteers who planted 750 tomato plants harvested only about five pounds of tomatoes. Now a fence keeps deer out, and other pests such as raccoons and possums are trapped and released far from this feeding ground. There are even a few apple trees on the grounds that are tended by folks from Can-Did Revolution, a recently established family canning company.
Nowhere in the United States has urban agriculture taken root as prolifically as in Detroit. Earthworks Urban Farm, Feedom Freedom Growers, GenesisHOPE, Georgia Street Collective, and other community gardens have stepped up to help create a healthier and more self-empowered food system. The Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women runs a small farm on the school’s grounds to teach students about nutrition and self-sufficiency. This gardening renaissance has been growing for over two decades since the Gardening Angels, a group of southern-born African-Americans, began growing food and passing their agricultural knowledge on to another generation.
There are more than 1,200 community gardens in Detroit—more per square mile and more per capita than in any other American city. The number of community gardens is just a fraction of the number of kitchen gardens that families grow in yards and side lots. Locals are learning more about nutrition and feeling the health effects of eating the food they grow. “You’re only as healthy as the food you eat,” says Latricia Wright, a naturopath who champions natural, uncooked, unprocessed foods. “It’s all about the minerals in the food.”
Read more at DailyGood.org