With the possible exception of New Orleans, no major American city has suffered more economic shocks than Detroit. Large tracts of land throughout the once-thriving city have been vacant for more than a generation. Each time the auto business has hit a tough patch, more manufacturing jobs exited the city, leaving behind abandoned factories, warehouses and storefront businesses that supported them.
Many older industrial cities are attempting to restore abandoned, sometimes contaminated land, called “brownfields”, as areas for urban agriculture. But these efforts could be dwarfed by a new venture taking shape in Detroit. (h/t Growing Edge) Writing in the LA Times, P.J. Huffstutter, describes the project:
Acres of vacant land are eyed for urban agriculture under an ambitious plan that aims to turn the struggling Rust Belt city into a green mecca. On the city’s east side, where auto workers once assembled cars by the millions, nature is taking back the land.
Cottonwood trees grow through the collapsed roofs of homes stripped clean for scrap metal. Wild grasses carpet the rusty shells of empty factories, now home to pheasants and wild turkeys. This green veil is proof of how far this city has fallen from its industrial heyday and, to a small group of investors, a clear sign. Detroit, they say, needs to get back to what it was before Henry Ford moved to town: farmland.
“There’s so much land available and it’s begging to be used,” said Michael Score, president of the Hantz Farms, which is buying up abandoned sections of the city’s 139-square-mile landscape and plans to transform them into a large-scale commercial farm enterprise.