Posts tagged ‘Detroit’

Botanical bailout

gabbard1Found this illustration by Justin Gabbard in the New York Times letters-to-the-editor last month. It accompanies letters on “Playing Politics With the Auto Bailout.” See here for a better view. Plants in tires takes on a new resonance.

A bunch of people have asked if I will replant the Green Zone garden at Firehouse 13 in 2009. Unlikely. I intended for the garden to last for the season, so I could move on to research and presentations.080730greenzone051

That said…I bet that Firehouse 13 will develop another garden this year. Jarrett, FH13’s director, grows veg in a West Side community garden, so he’s got green thumbs. And we know that the sun shines on Central Street.

I wonder if the firemen of the former Good Will Engine Company ever planted a garden. Firemen are amazing cooks. Are they also great gardeners?

January 31, 2009 at 12:51 pm Leave a comment

Hazen Pingree, American idol

pingree1I’m back from a hiatus…and back from the frosty midwest. Last week, I spent a day in Detroit, birthplace of America’s vacant lot garden movement.

Years before Detroit was DETROIT and America’s car capital, the city’s Progressive mayor needed a way to feed the hungry during the  economic depression of the mid-1890s.  With unemployment rising, overextended charities, and 6000 acres of vacant lots throughout the city, Pingree established a pilot program to provide poor families with small allotment gardens where they could raise their own food and sell their surplus.

In its first year (1894), 3000 families applied for 975 gardens on 450 urban acres. With a city investment of $3600, “Pingree’s Potato Patches” produced $14,000 worth of food.  The next year, with a $5000 investment and wider support, the total produce was $30,998.  As more cities heard of Mayor Pingree’s success, they adopted similar programs, under the direction of municipal governments, local charities, churches, private associations, or some combination.  By 1898, Providence was one of seventeen American cities with a vacant lot cultivation program.

pingree-plaqueOver a century later, Detroit is a leader in the contemporary urban agriculture movement. The city’s Garden Resource Program is a collaboration of the Detroit Agriculture Network, Earthworks Urban Farm/Capuchin Soup Kitchen, The Greening of Detroit, and Michigan State.

A monument to Pingree (who later served as Governor of Michigan) sits in Grand Circus Park in Downtown Detroit. THE IDOL OF THE PEOPLE still?

December 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm 1 comment


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