Fine Words Will Not Grow Wheat

by David Rambeau

Everybody in Detroit wants to eat, but nobody wants to farm. At least nowhere near the number of people needed to provide food security for the 700,000 Detroit residents about half of whom are unemployed, under-employed, hungry, on fixed income while enduring rising food prices, or receiving food stamps. In spite of these challenges clearly folk in Detroit are eating since 80% of the black women I see are either overweight or obese. Maybe if they had to raise their food they'd have more respect for their bodies and more awareness of the nutritional and counter-intuitive value of what they're consuming. But, unfortunately, that is not the case.

In addition there are also about 300,000 young people in metro Detroit who receive free meals in their schools. Would it be possible for them to take botany (a science class), a gardening class or an agricultural curriculum so they could learn to raise the food they need to have so they won't go hungry or malnourished on a daily basis.

To any logical thinking person this would seem obvious, but societies have been studied and known to collapse for failing to make the social, political and economic changes necessary for survival. Detroit, specifically Black Detroit, seems to be on this multi-faceted path to implosion. (Read "Collapse" by Jared Diamond)

This year a local private developer wanted to farm 1,000 acres of vacant land in Detroit controlled by the city government. He was allotted three acres. He should have been provided with 3,000 acres. One resident in the neighborhood where he wanted to farm claimed she didn't want to live on a "plantation". What has Detroit been for the last 100 years but one large auto plantation? With global competition in the auto industry, executive mismanagement and the economic downturn, Detroit has become a vast deplantation which has led to the exodus of over one million people, who are not to return any time soon.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr, appeared before the Detroit City Council and called urban farming "cute but foolish". With 50,000 unproductive vacant lots in the city how can anyone who knows anything about agriculture call the potential to raise $25,000,000 worth of crops per year "cute". The math is elementary: 50,000 lots x $500 worth of produce per lot = $25,000,000. Or put another way, a harvest large enough to feed everybody in Detroit in need of food. That's not including the benefits of development of community, physical and intellectual exercies and harmony with nature so lacking in Detroit. Reverend Cut But-Foolish might consider urban gardening/farming inappropriate, and the Detroit City Council may agree with him as demonstrated by their inaction on the issue, but the need continues to stare all of us in the face.

Michigan is one of the leading agricultural states in this nation experiencing a bumper crop this year while other farm states, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and others, are suffering from drought. Corn is over $9 per bushel; China is buying all the grain futures it can. Meanwhile, Detroit is having a bumper crop of grass, weeds, lawns, brush and vines. Climate change has become a fact of life world-wide and we're living in an area with abundant water supplies, at least for the time being, so we need to take advantage of what natural forces have provided. But we aren't, and this wrong-headed behavior and pathetic advice we will surely come to regret.

Fine Words Will Not Grow Wheat by David Rambeau

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