Changing Detroit's Urban Landscape, One Lot At A Time

By: Michele Wolfson

Edith Floyd is making Detroit urban farms, empty lot by empty lot. From vacant to verdant, Growing Joy Community Garden is binding together neighborhoods through community gardens. The equation is simple- more vacant lots in a neighborhood equals less stability in that neighborhood. The solution? Community gardens. That's where Detroit, with a staggering 27% vacancy rate, has succeeded.

Edith has been living in Detroit for almost four decades and says that her neighborhood is "surrounded by graveyards on three sides and then the other barrier is the railroad track; we are surrounded by railroad tracks, and sometimes those trains stay for like 30 minutes, so you are trapped; ain't no way out. " When she first arrived to this neighborhood she says it was beautiful and thriving with grocery stores in the center of the neighborhood. But then the city came in and bought up these businesses in order to expand the size of the airport and now she says, "They came in and ruined our neighborhood, and said they ran out of money and left us over here like that. I'm still here and I'm gonna stay here, 'cause I don't want to go somewhere and start all over again." This practice is called blotting and Detroit is one of the cities that is falling on hard times and is facing the staggering problem of abandoned properties.

The gardens act as a way to utilize abundant space and transform it into something positive. People have found jobs and built relationships through Growing Joy Community Gardens. The social capital that ascends from this project is another perk. Other cities that are confronted with the same struggles are coming to projects like this one and asking for advice.

The lots each have different crops. Edith has a strawberry lot, a collard green lot, a kale lot, an okra lot, an eggplant lot, a green bean lot, a garlic lot, a tomato lot, cucumber lot and even grows squash, cabbage, broccoli, watermelon and cantaloupe. She is now growing potatoes, mustard greens, and turnip greens.

She says that each year she is making more of a profit, but Edith isn't in it for the money. She loves seeing things grow from seed and she loves the way it helping the effort to revitalize her community.

Strengthening the community isn't the only benefit of Detroit's gardens. They also have the potential to feed the city's population that is most in need. A portion of the crops is donated to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.  Detroit is a food desert and as a result, people are often purchasing food in "fringe locations," like convenience stores and gas stations, where quality is often lacking and prices are astronomically high. Edith is on a mission to buy more land and create more produce to change the tides of the food industry in Detroit.

Photo: dailyinvention 

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