Solving Cities

The world's largest urban farm, or not?

The world's largest urban farm, or not?

Posting in Cities

Detroit may be on the brink of a resurgence. Will a proposal to buy 10,000 acres of inner-city land on the cheap help Detroit, or aid in the city's continued demise?

Whether a manifest dream, a land grab, or a prophetic act, when John Hantz saw swaths of vacant land in inner-city Detroit he thought big. Really big.

He proposed paying a tenth of what the city wanted per acre to plant the world's largest for-profit urban farm.

The controversy has been rocking Detroit ever since. Land sale needs formal approval from the city council and mayor - and urban farming policy needs a thorough re-articulation in general.

Finding uses for Detroit's vacant land has been on top of the agenda for city government, residents, entrepreneurs, and community organizers for a long time.

Matthew Dolan of The Wall Street Journal writes, "This summer, a city commission plans public hearings on a zoning ordinance that would permit for-profit farming. That process will force Detroiters to confront awkward questions about their city's development prospects. Among them: Is the abundance of vacant land an asset or a liability?"

The over 200,000 vacant parcels generate no significant tax revenue.

Mr. Hantz says,  Detroit "cannot create value until we create scarcity. Large-scale farming could begin to take land out of circulation in a positive way."

But there are reasons long-time urban farming advocates question Mr. Hantz's motivation.

"Hantz Farms officials acknowledge their self-funded venture would create few new jobs in the short term, and only modest revenue for Detroit," writes Dolan.

Kwamena Mensah, who manages the seven acre nonprofit D-Town organic farm, says Detroit's land should not be measured solely on its profit potential, but on "community-building, green spaces and places like this."

The future of Hantz Farm is yet to be seen, but one thing is clear: community organizing is powerful.

Mr. Hantz did not approach the project using a community development model. Is that why his original proposal of 10,000 acres has dwindled to a mere 200 acres?

Let SmartPlanet know what you think. Should Hantz Farm be granted 10,000 acres, or will a more community minded solution be possible within Detroit's politically fractured system?

Hantz Farm three acre demonstration project

Images: Hantz Farm; hoklife

Via: Planetizen

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Sonya James

Contributing Writer

Sonya James is a multimedia producer based in New York. With creativity and innovation in mind, she speaks to diverse voices on topics from racism in the art world to the patriotic nature of southern food. She holds a Masters Degree in Community Development. Disclosure