Eric Thomas Campbell | Photo Alexandre DaVeiga
In recent years, we’ve seen many cases where community gardens have transformed Detroit neighborhoods into full-scale models for self-determination. These achievements have taken us beyond growing food for sustenance, as vital as that aspect is. We are now looking for ways to distribute the harvest or, in the words of Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) executive director Malik Yakini, “sufficiently develop the infrastructure necessary to allow local growers to participate, in a more robust way, in the local food economy.”
Today, many neighborhood collectives that emerged out of community gardening are providing creative solutions to even greater economic necessities, including housing, youth centers, community kitchens, and local trading.
On August 1 Keep Growing Detroit’s (KGD) Annual Garden and Farm tour showcased some of the dozens of Detroit urban agriculture developments that are transforming the people who work in and around them. The urban agriculture movement has always been on the forefront of the larger movement for liberation— food sovereignty being the foundation of any self-reliant community. Now they are asking how to expand their efforts to address issues of water shut offs, school closures, and home foreclosures.
The KGD Tour allowed the 300 or so participants, traveling to different corners of the city by bus or by bike, to observe and reflect on the ways agriculture programs have opened our thinking to issues outside of food production. Food sovereignty links the work of community farmers to a myriad of activities including local enterprises and neighborhood gatherings such as those hosted by the Georgia Street Community Collective. The Ohana Family Garden, in addition to year-round cultivation of vegetables, flowers and bees, renovates apartments that provide sanctuary for young mothers. The Nurturing Our Seeds garden gives special attention to native plant species that most of us tend to look past every day.
Through the network developing around these evolving communities, we are addressing and solving the issues that local and federal government have not. Instead of shutting off water, closing schools and building jails, we are renovating homes, revitalizing the soil, educating ourselves and creating new and sustainable institutions rooted in more democratic principles.