The New York Times writes about urban farming in Detroit:
” […] Urban farmers face a number of challenges, from finding water (renegades tap into fire hydrants, Brother Samyn said) to eliminating broken glass, concrete and unsavory contaminants like lead from the soil. Hayfields, mistaken for “ghetto grass,” have been mowed down by the Department of Public Works just as they are ready to be cut and baled. Greenhouses are sometimes claimed by the homeless, and pilfering is a fact of life.
None of the farms are profitable, and all depend on students and volunteers — more than 1,000 citywide, Ms. Atkinson said. Members of her network have received about $300,000 in grants and donations, she estimated, including a few grants from the United States Department of Agriculture normally aimed at rural growers.
Advocates often say profits are secondary to building a sense of community. “It’s a means for people to take control of their neighborhoods and get tangible results that they can see and eat,” said Yamini Bala, coordinator of Detroit Summer, a youth gardening group.
He and others would like farming to become a permanent part of the Detroit landscape. But much of what they do falls below city officials’ radar. The chief city planner, George Dunbar of the Planning and Development Department, was surprised to learn that some farmers had claimed plots as large as an acre.
“Outstanding,” he said. “If that’s the case, then I commend the individuals who do that, but I tell you, if we advertise the property and it’s city-owned land that we can get a housing development on, then I’ll take that. I am always trying to increase the tax rolls to keep city services going.”