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Detroit’s citizens are resuming the city with an innovative life experiment. They are doing it with the contribution of numerous communities (especially young people and women) who converge in the former automotive industrial nest of Michigan from all over the USA. The fulcrum of this small revolution is the movement towards urban agriculture. Numerous journalists, sociologists and town planners around the world witness this trend. Browsing “Detroit urban farms” is enough for having an idea of the growing phenomenon. But in what does this planetary remedy for survival in the third millennium consist?
Cultivating fresh food in abandoned buildings, free parcels, demolished premises (recession has literally emptied the city) and in other “cracks” of the land. Some of the homes’ skeletons, abandoned by the owners who were no longer able to pay their mortgages and never re-qualified by the banks which have supplant bankruptcy, have been transformed in walling hives in order to maintain heat for the gardens.
Thousands of young people converged by increasingly expensive realities (students, jobless, couples in search of sustainable futures) that create agricultural communities, cooperatives, trading companies. Schools have initiated school gardens, real open-air labs where students can experiment traditional techniques, now advanced, for fruit and vegetable cultivation. Dozens of elderly are voluntaries to the project and convivial dinners have great success. Some groups sell products door to door, others organize street markets, opening temporary corner shops by gas stations and parishes. Today in Detroit more than two hundred tons of goods are produced and the urban gardens are over 2 thousand. This is a remarkable result, being in a city known as “food desert”, where fresh food resale is almost entirely absent. Forbes Magazine reports that only 19% of groceries here offer a variety necessary for the diet recommended by the United States Drug Administration. Shea Howell, founder and administrator of “The boggs center to nurture community leadership” (boggscenter.org) talks about the emergence of urban farms: «We are experiencing a reduction of the city’s population (from one million and eight hundred thousand to seven hundred thousand citizens) and, as it decreases more residential lands are cleared, homes abandoned or demolished. When citizens, particularly Afro-American women from the south, saw these lands being cleared they started to expand their gardens. Starting from a small green backyard, passing over to the next door lot… hence, as Grace Lee Boggs (activist and philosopher expert of social movements, recently disappeared in Detroit) wrote: “where some see the abandoned many of these women see an opportunity”». A new and “viral” economy rose, according to which whoever cultivates more than necessary trades or sells the excess of goods. “Grown in Detroit” is the trademark which was created and that certifies the local origin, good and ethical and Slow Food would say.
A biodynamic life
by Giuliana Zoppis
News, events, products and services for an innovative and conscious lifestyle:
all that can give an ecologic shift to everyday actions with responsibility, curiosity, creativity and the desire of improving us and the world we live in. This is the section led by Giuliana Zoppis, architect, journalist and expert of ecodesign, biobuilding and socio-environmental sustainability. In 2006, together with Clara Mantica , she founded Best Up the first chain for promoting the sustainable living.