Throughout America post-industrial cities like Detroit have struggled to redefine their economies and identities in a shifting economic landscape. Many urban landscapes are slowly being transformed through urban agriculture, a movement that seeks not only to diversify the local economy, but hopes to build long-lasting community ties through a shared agricultural investment.
A Michigan conference on earlier this month explored the importance of urban agriculture. “We’re not just growing food. We are growing communities as well,” said Malik Yakini, chairman of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, “We’re a post-industrial city that is struggling to find its way,” and “urban agriculture is playing a role in that.”
In addition to feeding the residents of Detroit, Yakini hopes that in addition to building communal ties, that urban agriculture will help teach local children self-confidence, civic service, and an appreciation for environmental issues. Yakini has been encouraging the development of these values, beginning from his days as a local school principal who emphasized agriculture as an important part of the curriculum.
Despite his lofty goals, Yakini has reported some difficulties in promoting agriculture in Detroit. Many Detroit residents, many of whom are African American, tend to associate agriculture with slavery and racial degradation, Yakini argued. Moving beyond this “mental barrier” was the first crucial step towards creating urban agriculture.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer