What I saw and heard from panelists at The Business of Urban Agriculture Summit, the April 7 forum sponsored by the University of Michigan, Dearborn, has changed the way I think about Detroit’s healthy food crisis.
Dan Carmody, manager of Detroit’s renowned Eastern Market, offered a history of agriculture in Detroit, exposing the loss of locally available food as a result of the emergence of the current oligarchy. At the same time, the current crisis -- a vast amount of available land and under-utilized people -- provides unique opportunities to invest in healthy food education, initiatives, and job opportunities.
Detroit has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. In January, it hovered above 15 percent. SNAP sales here have reached $450 million, providing an opportunity to promote healthy food to a new, larger audience. Michigan is agriculturally diverse --more than 150 crops can be grown here. In addition, Carmody noted, we have the unique ability to produce food using three calories of energy for every one calorie of food.
Carmody looks at this picture and sees an opportunity to educate people and create a new food distribution method. He believes those new models and job opportunities can be sprouted from community gardens. Eastern Market has already worked with the Greening of Detroit to help establish 80 new...