Urban Farming: Vacant Public Land Could Provide Most of Detroit’s Produce

The decline of the automotive industry and subsequent collapse of Detroit has been well documented. But as we explained last year, some entrepreneurs see agricultural opportunity in the city’s decay. Now a study from Michigan State University backs them up by revealing that a combination of community gardens, urban farms, and greenhouses in the city could provide locals with more than 75% of their vegetables and 40% of their fruits.

According to PhysOrg, MSU researchers catalogued all vacant land plots in the city (excluding sensitive areas around schools, cemeteries, churches, etc.) and found 44,085 available plots spanning 4,848 acres. All of the plots are publicly owned.

The big task, of course, is to find people to farm all that land — and pay to cultivate it. Michigan entrepreneur John Hantz is investing $30 million over the next 10 years in the Hantz Farms project, which aims to farm 5,000 acres of city land. Hantz plans to working around 90 acres in the next few years– a testament to the time and energy it takes to really get farming. But unless the auto industry magically recuperates, Detroit has time to spare.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.AS