Fast Company

Future Farmers Feed on Detroit's Vegetative State

detroit

The collapse of the auto industry has done a number on Detroit. Laid-off workers seem to continuously multiply. Abandoned houses line many city blocks. But with the destruction of one industry comes the opportunity for another one to grow in its ashes: farming.

Michigan entrepreneur John Hantz invested $30 million in his Hantz Farms project, which takes aim at 5,000 acres of Detroit land for farming everything from organic lettuce to crops for biofuels. There's still a long way to go--Hantz will start working 30 acres next spring, and it is proving difficult to buy big parcels of land for a continuous farm. Instead, Hantz is buying smaller, unconnected parcels that will each grow different crops depending on the soil and surrounding environment.

Of course, turning Detroit into an agricultural haven is far from easy. The city's soil is rife with pollutants, and city zoning laws and property taxes will have to be adjusted if commercial farming is to actually take off. But consider this: Detroit Mayor Dave Bing claims that almost half of all city residents are unemployed or underemployed, despite attempts by auto companies to revive the area by manufacturing new hybrid cars in old factories. One day, those attempts might bring in some substantial jobs, but auto start-ups like Tesla, Aptera, and V-Vehicle (to name a few) are slowly moving auto employment opportunities to the West Coast. So at the very least, Detroit would be wise to use its ultra-cheap land to create a backup industry, albeit one that may not look particularly traditional. And who knows? Those organic tomatoes at the grocery store could eventually come from a factory-side farm in Detroit.

[Via LA Times]

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4 Comments

  • Joseph Cucculelli

    First of all your from california great, I work here in Detroit which I'm a teacher. If detroit rebuilds the areas that are suffering people will come back to the city with more companies and jobs, it's not rocket science. Jobs are generated by the community, a 1/2 a century ago there were app 1.8 million people in detroit maybe there is 700,000 still here, yes i understand no jobs (great) detroit is quit, somewhat a clean city (better than cleveland) but the skylight scene of the city is burnt down abandoned building.. great buy them but why? Plant, Farming, it is something to make this city beautiful again and then the jobs will come..

  • Joseph Cucculelli

    Farming is a great idea , the hard problem with detroit is all the unhabited building that are eye sores. people will not come back to detroit if neighborhood can't even take care of there communities. I'm started a problem with or without help to help beautify detroit again. 1 street at a time, get local growers and farmers, and communities involved.. Our nation is falling apart day by day..a Great quote from a movie " if you build it they will come" its definetly true..If we try to rebuild detroit and surrounding areas people will move back and business will come back to the city....Chef joe

  • David Osedach

    I've read of auctions of houses in Detroit where houses starting as low as $500 have no bids. Surely something could be done with all the excess buildings.

  • Chris Reich

    Growing organic tomatoes isn't going to pay $30/hr. with benefits. The death of ethics and rapid rise of greed is going to lower this country's standard of living for the next generation.

    They won't be able to afford a home but they will have an I-Phone to play with on the bus on their way to work at Wal-mart.

    Chris Reich
    www.TeachU.com