This latest project in Detroit’s North End ties neighborhood growth along with agriculture.
One of the more interesting storylines in Detroit’s transformation has been the rise of urban agriculture. The variety of uses of land across the city — and what is going to happen to them long term — is constantly evolving.
Totaling about three acres and nestled in a neighborhood among vacant land, occupied and abandoned homes, The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) urban “agrihood” as they call it features a two-acre urban garden, a 200-tree fruit orchard, a children’s sensory garden, and more.
MUFI has been around for more than five years. Annually, the urban garden already provides fresh, free produce to about 2,000 households within two square miles of the farm.
“Over the last four years, we’ve grown from an urban garden that provides fresh produce for our residents to a diverse, agricultural campus that has helped sustain the neighborhood, attracted new residents and area investment,” said Tyson Gersh, MUFI president and co-founder.
Now, they’re taking it to the next level. The volunteer nonprofit is teaming up with BASF and Sustainable Brands, a global community of business innovators, to restore a three-story long-vacant building across from MUFI’s urban garden into a Community Resource Center (CRC).
According to MUFI, the 3,200 square-foot, box-shaped CRC will offer educational programs, event and meeting space, and serve as the organization’s new operational headquarters. It will also house two commercial kitchens on the first floor that will service the cafe and allow for future production and packaging of valued goods. The former apartment complex was purchased by MUFI at auction in November 2011.
Next door on some vacant land, a healthy food cafe is planned. Both projects have timelines that means we’re going to see the idea bloom quickly, as they are to be unveiled as part of Sustainable Brands ‘17 Detroit conference held at Cobo Center May 22-25.
The center of the agrihood is an urban garden that features more than 300 vegetable varieties and provides easily accessible, free produce to neighborhood residents, area churches, and food pantries.
Since its first growing season in 2012, MUFI has distributed more than 50,000 pounds of free produce.
“We’ve seen an overwhelming demand from people who want to live in view of our farm, Gersh said. “This is part of a larger trend occurring across the country in which people are redefining what life in the urban environment looks like. We provide a unique offering and attraction to people who want to live in interesting spaces with a mix of residential, commercial, transit, and agriculture.”
In addition to BASF is General Motors, Herman Miller, and environmental firm Green Standards. General Motors is strengthening its commitment to Detroit and will support MUFI’s urban agrihood through its recently announced partnership with Herman Miller’s rePurpose program.
GM is repurposing tens of thousands of pieces of office furniture and other surplus office items resulting from the renovations occurring at its Warren Technical Center, Milford Proving Ground, and global headquarters in Detroit. Those items will outfit the facility, with purposeful spaces designed by Herman Miller for collaboration and community.
Additionally, according to MUFI, there are several projects underway. A long-vacant home is being transformed into student intern housing. There’s a two-bedroom shipping container home, and the recent deconstruction of a fire damaged home bordering the farm. The home’s basement was retained and is being converted into a water harvesting cistern that will automatically irrigate the garden while preventing runoff into the Detroit’s sewer system.