In 2008, the world reached a silent milestone when the urban population outnumbered the rural one for the first time. Being cut off from nature and farming, urban neighborhoods lost touch with real fresh foods and the basic roots of life. But it can change. The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative took the first step into the future with the development of a 3 acres urban agrihood located in the north-end area of Detroit. The 2-acre garden and the 200 trees fruit orchard provide free fresh products to around 2,000 households while the sensory garden serves as a playground for children.
The 3-acre project was built on formerly abandoned homes and vacant land. An apartment complex that MUFI purchased in the tax auction of 2011 is now the organization headquarter and the physical center of their agricultural campus.
The urban farm grows more than 300 produce varieties annually and has become the America’s first sustainable urban agriculture model. This agrihood is an alternative neighborhood that’s built around the farm-to-table model featured mainly in rural and suburban settings. The video featured below underlines the main principles of this agricultural new approach led by MUFI.
Through urban agriculture, MUFI aims to solve the problems that Detroit residents are facing such as nutritional illiteracy and food insecurity. Detroit residents living in a 2-square miles radius around the farm have now access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
MUFI also wants to implement a new healthy food cafe, which will be located next to the community center and will also contain a commercial kitchen.
A 50-year Detroit resident who lives nearby is pleased with the agrihood growth. “I love it because we’re kind of in a food desert,” she said. “It’s not easy to get fresh fruits and vegetables.”
This successful experiment could be repeated almost everywhere, on a larger or smaller scale. Most cities have the potential to undergo similar projects through community groups or official channels. Urban gardens of different sizes and shapes can be placed almost anywhere in cities, enhancing neighborhoods and providing for communities. A display of growing plants, made accessible to all and cared for by conscientious gardeners, would provide an alternative to sterile development and unused spaces and offers a vision of hope for any city.