Detroit Residents Voice Reservations

12/1/2012

Hundreds of people showed up to weigh in on the Hantz Woodlands proposal December 10. Photo by Sarah Hulett, Michigan Radio. (view larger image)

Hundreds of people showed up to weigh in on the Hantz Woodlands proposal December 10. Photo by Sarah Hulett, Michigan Radio.

Detroit has been known for its ground-up approach to solving its food issues through small-scale urban agriculture. Not only has the city put urban farming on the map locally, but it has become known nationally along with other projects. So it is no surprise that the city residents interested in growing and social justice expressed concern about a major land purchase of more than 100 acres of vacant land in Detroit for the Hantz Woodlands farm project.

Dozens of urban gardens and farms have popped up to address some of the needs of the city that does not have enough full-scale grocers to provide fresh, affordable food within its limits.

The sale of land to Hantz Woodlands represents the largest speculative land sale in Detroit’s history, according to City of Detroit’s Planning Commission. One of the frustrations for residents who have been gardening is that they cannot seem to overcome bureaucratic hurdles to buy small parcels of land for food growing themselves.

Malik Yakini, founder of the Detroit Black Food Security Network and founding member of the Detroit Food Policy Council, sees the proposed purchase as more than a simple business transaction. Yakini says, “As we struggle to foster food security, food justice and food sovereignty, the question of land, who ‘owns’ it, who controls it, and who benefits from it, must be in the forefront of our discussions.”

Hundreds of people attended a public hearing on the Hantz proposal December 10, many to speak out against it according to Michigan Radio. Nonetheless, Detroit City Council voted to approve the Hantz project to grow hardwood trees on more than 1500 parcels on December 11.

Currently, the Detroit City Council is working on an urban agriculture ordinance that would set the rules of purchase and growing in the city. An ordinance would clarify the steps for purchase of plots for groups and individuals who want to engage in urban farming in Detroit. A decision on the ordinance, which residents hope will act as an equitable guidebook on how land in the city is sold, bought and used, is expected by February.