The Precarity of Black Urban Farming in Detroit
“If we want a stake in the process of controlling our own life, we’ve got to own land. If we are to create a society that values black life, we cannot ignore the role of food and land.”
With de-urbanization over the last few decades having freed up tracts of land both large and small, Detroit would seem to be prime real estate for local urban farmers, a rare chance to bring significant agriculture to a mid-sized American city. Given Detroit’s predominantly black population, it would also appear to be a golden opportunity to reconnect urban African Americans with their agricultural history. Urbanization, proprietary exclusion, and cultural shame from centuries of forced and coerced labor have contributed to a widening gap between African Americans and agriculture. Black land ownership, one of the few historical forms of intergenerational black wealth, has decreased dramatically over the last century, from 20 million acres in 1910 to 8 million today. The situation in Detroit, which opens access to farming without ownership, doesn’t look posed to fix that.
Public Radio International features the stories of the black urban farmers of Detroit facing difficult odds as the city hoards land titles and wealthy outside speculators buy up the remaining deeds in controversial deals that further marginalize Detroit natives.
“Black farmers in Detroit are growing their own food. But they’re having trouble owning the land.” (Public Radio International)
(Image Credit: Cybelle Codish/PRI)