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Old 12-06-2016, 05:50 PM   #1
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Default Agrihood: urban gardens in the 'hood

This is just flat-out a great idea. And if it can work in Detroit, which has become an island of urban desolation, it can work anywhere.

America’s first sustainable urban agrihood is growing in Detroit
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This week, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) revealed its plans for the first Sustainable Urban Agrihood in the North End.

Wait, an agrihood? It’s an alternative neighborhood growth model, positioning agriculture as the centerpiece of a mixed-use development. There are some agrihoods around the country, but in rural areas. This is the first within a city.

MUFI’s agrihood spans three acres on Brush Street, a few blocks up from East Grand Boulevard. MUFI runs a successful two-acre garden, a 200-tree fruit orchard, and a children’s sensory garden. They provide free produce to the neighborhood, churches, food pantries, and more.

The big part of the announcement was the plans to renovate a three-story, 3,200-square-foot vacant building that MUFI had bought at auction years back. This renovation and more is a collaboration between MUFI, Sustainable Brands, BASF, GM, and Herman Miller in an effort to create an energy efficient, sustainable Community Resource Center (CRC), which should be finished in May 2017. GM and Herman Miller are providing repurposed office furniture and supplies for the CRC. Integrity Building Group in Detroit is doing the architectural design and construction.

...Also in the works for the agrihood: the restoration of a house for student intern housing, a two-bedroom shipping container home, and work on turning a fire-damaged home (in which only the basement is left) into a water harvesting cistern to irrigate the garden.
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Old 12-06-2016, 10:01 PM   #2
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I know exactly where that is. Years ago I considered purchasing a building there to turn into a neighborhood grocery store. I would be willing to bet that is the same building they now own.
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Old 12-06-2016, 10:21 PM   #3
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In declining cities or cities with blighted areas... we're seeing some pretty innovative ideas. I hope MUFI has or plans a website for this initiative. It would be really interesting to see how this works, what ends up being altered - all that good 'new business' stuff. There's a lot of potential here, especially with a building being part of the project.

Bet BlueGecko could have 3 note book pages full of workable ideas within an hour.
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Old 12-07-2016, 12:09 AM   #4
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LOL

---------- Post added at 10:09 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:06 PM ----------

I thought the same thing, Sue. Love, love, love this kind of initiative.
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Old 12-07-2016, 02:41 PM   #5
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This will never work. Tragedy of the Commons and all of that.

Community gardens, and that is what this is even with the dressed up name, always fail.

2-5 years from now all that will likely will be left if a weed covered path and a couple of web pages at BASF, GM, and Herman Miller crowing about their participation.

If pre-funded well, and I mean money locked up in advance from these companies, we are talking non-profit permanent jobs for MUFI employees especially the executives.

Hippies through the 1960-1980s tried these under Urban Homesteading and they almost always fell apart.

Some did make it though fortitude of a few stubborn individual and brought the neighborhood back usually by becoming a focal point for the citizens.

"Normal people" started moving in, the neighborhood becomes gentrified, then they want that "nasty weed covered garden and all of those Hippies" gone.

(Bonus! I see this around here, in the rural areas near the suburbs. People like the idea of "moving to the country" so some guy buys some property near farmers and ranchers and cuts 2-5 acre lots. People go about bringing the city to the country, building McMansions, chopping down trees and clearing land making those lots looks like English gardens they had in the city.

Soon, those milk cown or beef cattle mooing at 7am, or those chickens crowing at 5am which were once quaint are now a pain in the @$$ to them. "They devalue our property and wake me up! And those tractors starting up at 6AM! Why don't those farmers pave that "driveway"? All of that dust! Those full size trucks on the farm to market roads!)

Ha, I am really started today!
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Old 12-07-2016, 05:13 PM   #6
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Around here and across the river in Md they have stipulations written stating that the purchaser understands there is a WORKING FARM/ORCHARD NEARBY/NEXT DOOR.

I guess so they the purchaser can't come back and say they didn't know and maybe so they can't sue or whatever.
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Old 12-07-2016, 05:56 PM   #7
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Community gardens can be tricky - ask me how I know! The ones our corporation runs are kept as simple as possible. A suitable bit of land on the property is found. SOME building managers manage to find enough in their very limited local budget to rent a rototiller. If not, those who've signed up for rows pony up a few bucks each or if you're in luck... "somebody has a family member or friend willing to loan one." If now - you find out really quickly who the committed gardeners are.

These work best with no more than 10 gardeners, 6 is even better & very few rules. Our local rules are: "plant, weed, water your own rows". They have to be kept weeded. No use of pesticides & there's a "plant by" date or you give up your allotment. We also don't plant corn or anything else likely to attract raccoons.

We still have the odd spat but we sort things out ourselves & that's rarely an issue.

Several communities in my city have tried community gardens without specifying what bits of actual ground anyone looks after. They've failed. Interest tails off because too many newbie gardeners don't realize how much WORK growing your own food is. I'll be frank - the gardens here have been started in the poor parts of town & let's just say the work ethic isn't there. As for growing food to GIVE AWAY???

The project as described above CAN work - it's going to need some enthusiastic staffing that doesn't discourage easily because you're not just teaching basic planting, weeding, harvesting - for a great many participants, you're going well beyond that in subtle ways... life skills such as patience, perserverence, a willingness to commit regular time. If I were running it, I'd also start very slowly with the basic gardening & make sure the skilled work is linked to trades training programs. Let the small successes build on one another.
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Old 12-07-2016, 10:18 PM   #8
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There are very few houses left so if there is any gentrification going on they will have to build. The roads along the left and right are residential streets.
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Old 12-07-2016, 11:58 PM   #9
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I know exactly where this is too. Last time I saw it, I think there were still a couple of derelict buildings standing.

This project isn't so much about community gardening as it is about a new type of urban planning. The goal is to learn how to integrate a functional green space and local source of food into an urban mixed-use neighborhood. For now, the focus in on doing this in the 'food deserts' that most urban areas suffer from.

Since there isn't much of a neighborhood there now, they're hoping to attract new property owners. They'll already have a restaurant and produce store but maybe they could attract a deli or small grocery store. Maybe a coffee shop, or a church, or a dental practice. And then the houses would come because it will be an attractive agrihood, with businesses conveniently located and centered on the productive green space.
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Old 12-08-2016, 07:32 PM   #10
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There is a very good show on PBS that has highlighted some of these gardens. One was rather larger and was run with a half way house with convicted felons. They in turn donated the food to local pantries. The woman running it said those that left her house had a low rate of recidivism.

The one problem I never see addressed is having the soil tested for heavy metals. The chances are, at least some of this area isn't safe for growing.
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Old 12-08-2016, 07:49 PM   #11
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flowerchild I hadn't thought of that & hope the organizers have.

For all the 'critique' I had for the idea, I still think it's worth a try. Maybe it will be a total failure. Maybe some aspects will work & others not. Maybe, with a lot of hard work, thinking outside the box & willingness to adapt as situations change, ALL of it might work.

There's no question in some cities, we're seeing more urban blight. This is one approach that may breathe vital new life into dying neighbourhoods. If something like this were being attempted in my area, I'd happily volunteer.
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