Yes Magazine - Today, a different model of urban agriculture has made an appearance in Detroit, and many community gardeners there are opposing it. For the past four years, local businessman John Hantz has been taking steps to create what he calls “the world’s largest urban farm.” His company, Hantz Farms, asked the city for permission to buy up about 1,500 parcels of city-owned land. That’s about 140 acres—the largest sale of land by area in the city’s history.
Because Detroit lacks an agricultural ordinance, planting trees is
one of the few agricultural activities
currently permitted. So Hantz Farms started out by doing just that,
young oaks, maples, and poplars and mowing the grass around them on the
it already owns. So the land deal seems to promise more of an urban
forest than an urban farm. It won't supply much in the way of food or
jobs. It won't provide the city much money, either, as Hantz will pay
about $300 on average per plot.
Nevertheless, that deal was approved by a 5-4 vote in the City Council, after a raucous hearing that at one point had to be called
into recess because activists refused to give up the floor.
Those activists include not just local urban gardeners but also real estate agents concerned about property values and local residents. They question what the deal will mean for the city’s
income, urban character, and food security.
“Trees are not going to increase taxable revenue,” Crouch explained.
What they will do instead, he said, is “create scarcity” in the city’s
market, raising the value of nearby houses and eventually raising
the value of the land on which the trees are growing.
That means Hantz
Farms might eventually make a great deal of money selling off the
land it’s now buying cheaply—a prospect that angers many community