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More on Urban Farms

Adding to the debate on cities and food and the recent comments about vertical farms, of all places, Fortune magazine has a relevant article that is getting a lot of coverage.  In the current edition, there is a piece on Detroit and the potential to be gained in the near future from turning most of it over to food production. Some relevant numbers here –At 139 square miles, Detroit is three times the size of Boston and San Francisco and over five times Manhattan. But, as the car industry has scaled down, the population of Detroit has fallen from 1.5m in 1970 to around 800,000 today. As a consequence the cost of an acre of land in Detroit is now $3000 – Compare that to $4500 an acre for farmland in Iowa. So, the article suggests, why not turn Detroit into an efficient urban farm?


The main proponent of this is John Hantz who intends to start planting crops this spring. The argument is that this will “restore big chunks of tax-delinquent, resource draining urban blight to pastoral productivity; provide decent jobs with benefits; supply local markets and restaurants with fresh produce; attract tourists and stimulate development around the edges.” So, is this a unique opportunity – or are there other cities in similar situations? Could this be an alternative for high density urban farms, and if so, how will this be funded? John Hantz believes this can be run at profit. If so then why won’t other declining cities seeking greater food security, more sustainable operations and rejuvenation potential follow suit?

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