Sunday, March 6, 2011

From Motown to Grow-Town!

A bucketful of vegetables from Romanowski Farm Park, Detroit

by Ashley Atkinson, Michigan Citizen

Here’s a little known statistic: More than one-in-50 Detroiters will be engaged in growing their own food in family, school, community and/or market gardens across the city this year. Although our landscape is covered in ice and snow now, very soon Detroit will be overflowing with productive patches of green, filled with heirloom tomatoes, snap peas, collard greens and vines ripe with the fruits of summer, lovingly tended by the capable hands of our citizenry. With over 16,000 residents involved in the Garden Resource Program (GRP) alone, Detroiters are leading the country with efforts to transform vacant land into productive gardens and farms; rebuilding local networks of food producers, distributors, processors, and consumers, while building community and stability in our neighborhoods.

These are promising numbers for those like Sam Newsome from Brotherly Love Community Garden who routinely says, “We’re turning Motown into Grow-town!” Sam and others believe Detroit is poised to become the first post-industrial city in America to regain control of its food system. Not only do we have engaged and knowledgeable residents, we have the land and natural resources at our fingertips. A recent study published by Michigan State University found that Detroiters can produce 75 percent of our vegetable needs and nearly 50 percent of our fruit needs for 900,000 people on just 2,000 acres, a fraction of the vacant land currently available in the city.

Now is the perfect time to join the thousands of residents growing a food secure Detroit! One of the important goals the Detroit Food Policy Council is tasked with is to help Detroit realize its potential by promoting a policy environment that facilitates the transformation of vacant into productive gardens and farms. Join the conversation by attending the first annual Powering Up the Local Food System Summit hosted by the Detroit Food Policy Council May 19 and 20 at the Eastern Market. For more information contact

Here are a few other ways you can get involved:

1) Start a vegetable garden. Residents of Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park can join the Garden Resource Program and receive seeds, transplants, and other garden resources for a nominal fee by contacting Lindsay Turpin at The Greening of Detroit, 313.285.1249

2) Cultivate a green thumb. Attend one of the gardening, farming, cooking or preserving workshops offered by the many community-based organizations working to promote food security in Detroit. For schedules and more information visit

3) Buy Local. Buy Grown in Detroit. Support local farmers and gardeners selling at farmers markets and restaurants. To find a farmers’ market near you visit

Ashley Atkinson is Secretary of the Detroit Food Policy Council and Director of Urban Agriculture and Openspace at The Greening of Detroit.

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