I think this is a great idea. It is the dream of John Hantz, a wildly successful entrepreneur who actually still lives in Detroit and thinks farming could be the future of Detroit. Instead of block after block of dilapidated, abandoned houses there would be farms.
Yes, a farm. A large-scale, for-profit agricultural enterprise, wholly contained within the city limits of Detroit. Hantz thinks farming could do his city a lot of good: restore big chunks of tax-delinquent, resource-draining urban blight to pastoral productivity; provide decent jobs with benefits; supply local markets and restaurants with fresh produce; attract tourists from all over the world; and -- most important of all -- stimulate development around the edges as the local land market tilts from stultifying abundance to something more like scarcity and investors move in. Hantz is willing to commit $30 million to the project. He'll start with a pilot program this spring involving up to 50 acres on Detroit's east side. "Out of the gates," he says, "it'll be the largest urban farm in the world."
Honestly, what else are we going to do with Detroit? Manufacturing is never coming back. The infrastructure is shaky. The jobs have all moved and so have many of the people. There aren't corporations lined up looking to move to Detroit. At the rate of deterioration, Detroit will be a ghost town in a decade, a town that no one will want to be in. It may already be that way for all practical purposes. The scale of Detroit is enormous, far bigger than many other large cities in terms of land area:
But still there's the problem of what to do with the city's enormous amount of abandoned land, conservatively estimated at 40 square miles in a sprawling metropolis whose 139-square-mile footprint is easily bigger than San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan combined. If you let it revert to nature, you abandon all hope of productive use. If you turn it over to parks and recreation, you add costs to an overburdened city government that can't afford to teach its children, police its streets, or maintain the infrastructure it already has.
40 square miles of abandoned land. Think about that. Something is going to thrive there. It can either be drugs and violence and despair or it can be farms. We are pretty intrigued by this idea. Small scale agriculture in a place where we could also minister as a family. I can think of several friends who might be willing to join in something like this. Live in the community, raise food, proclaim Christ. What a great ministry opportunity and mission field right here in Michigan! It is one thing to drive in from the suburbs and minister to people but it is quite another to live in the mission field itself.
The number one impediment might be the entrenched interests in Detroit, those who are more interested in political power than helping people. People like this guy quoted in the article:
"I'm concerned about the corporate takeover of the urban agriculture movement in Detroit," says Malik Yakini, a charter school principal and founder of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, which operates D-Town Farm on Detroit's west side. "At this point the key players with him seem to be all white men in a city that's at least 82% black."
Mr. Yakini, look around you at this city dying day by day with no hope and no end in sight. So instead of getting past race and focusing on solving the problem, let's reject what could be a great idea with actual capital to back it up and business leaders with a plan because it isn't a racially diverse enough group? Those are the exact sort of attitudes that have led Detroit and Michigan in general to the brink of ruin.
The once great cities of the industrial Midwest are a problem that America cannot ignore. The government has tried throwing money at the problem and it just gets worse. It is high time to let those who have the money because they have been successful get a shot at revitalizing Detroit and Cleveland and Akron. It is not like the situation in Detroit can get much worse.