Will Detroit’s Hantz Farms be the World’s First Urban Farm?

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toward acquiring up to 10,000 acres in Detroit. Next, he wondered what kind of business could convert “blight to beauty” while paying for itself. He hit upon the idea of commercial agriculture, and Hantz Farms was born.

Despite the Hantz Farms website’s beautiful pictures of bright red apples crowding leafy branches, freshly pulled green onions with soil still clinging to their roots, and a pair of hands gently cupping a seedling, the Hantz project will be a tree farm.

“We’re interested in higher value agricultural and horticultural goods,” Score says. “We need crops that can grow in varied soil, around concrete and rebar.”

The initial parcel will be 200 acres just east of the Indian Village neighborhood, with the company working to acquire an additional 300 concurrent acres. During that interim period, Hantz Farms says it would work with local businesses on a site plan. Score says the company would clear the land of brush and trash and get the farm planted within a year. Hantz plans to farm around infrastructure: sidewalks, plumbing, and homes.

Part of the deal, Score says, is that city would use federal dollars to demolish vacant structures, and they would have to do it in a certain timeframe.

“We’re bringing global industry to Detroit to get a new infusion of economic development into the city, but the city has to be willing to deal with dangerous infrastructure issues,” Score says.

To prove the merit of the project to skeptics—which include a few in city hall—Hantz Farms has already closed on a deal with the city to establish a demonstration project. The city agreed to sell the company 20 parcels next door to its headquarters off Mt. Elliott on the east side. Before Hantz Farms closed on the project, it removed brush and garbage to the tune of 430 tires and 150 cubic yards of trash. The city then came out and hauled what Hantz had cleared to the dump.

“The people who live here loved it,” Score says. “It was proof that this can be done in a way the city is proud of.”

As for the larger project east of Indian Village, Score says Hantz Farms spends a lot of time working on its relationship with neighbors affected by its project. He points to a petition … Next Page »

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Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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