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

9/19/11Follow @XconomyDET

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of urban revitalization that provides cities with fresh, local food; trains underemployed populations in new agricultural trades; and beautifies city cores that are rotting into rubble? Or will it become a yet another bureaucratic nightmare in Detroit’s history, done in by infighting and institutional incompetence?

Mike Score, president of Hantz Farm, believes wholeheartedly in his company’s vision. The idea for an urban farm first came about a few years ago when John Hantz, the farm’s namesake and CEO, grew tired of watching the city he had lived in for decades crumble.

“John fell in love with the city,” Score says. “He chooses to live in Detroit even though he could live anywhere else in Michigan. He saw how pockets of blight were expanding, and he was concerned the city could become unlivable.”

Hantz, who made his fortune with a financial services company, worried that more vacant land would lead to less property-tax revenue in city coffers, which would in turn would mean the city would no longer be able to provide city services—an idea that has become reality as the Bing administration convenes planning meeting after planning meeting in search of a solution to this very problem.

Score says Hantz came to realize the city had a problem in the bombed-out blocks, poorly educated workforce, and perpetually high crime rate that makes Detroit appear to be a shaky proposition to many investors. But Hantz didn’t see it that way. He saw a city with an international border crossing, a port, a solid transportation infrastructure, nearby universities to provide technical support, and a chronically underemployed workforce.

“John began to wonder what business could do to change the marketplace,” Score says. “He saw that there was no scarcity of land, and he realized something had to happen to create scarcity of land again.”

Score says Detroit has 40 square miles of publicly owned vacant land. Hantz wanted a way to put a significant amount of land back in the private sector, so that the maintenance shifted away from the cash-strapped city and into the hands of private enterprise. Hantz decided he’d invest $30 million … Next Page »

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

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  • Jerry Jeff

    Interesting story. 40 square miles of vacant land is crazy–the entire city of Boston is only 48 sq miles.

  • colin thomas

    World’s first urban farm???? Hardly, there have been urban farms all over the world for many years in various sizes. Perhaps this may be the biggest yet which is great. I hope this helps Detroit climb out of the hole they have found themselves in.

  • Patrick de Freitas

    The odd part of all this hype is that Detroit already has lots of farms. It’s just that they’re called Community Gardens — and they’re all over town. They get ignored.

    With the amount of attention and city expenditures already pushed in the direction of Hantz Farm, the city could have helped those very community gardens and the numerous citizens they involve & train. The city could have bought equipment, cleared land, assured title to property, and trained citizens in food production.

    Instead, once again, the city — and Xconomy — is seduced by Big Ideas. It’s the small steps that’ll make Detroit a liveable city.

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  • http://www.FOYcommunications.com J. E. Foy

    Some careful reading would help your perceived slight, colin t’: “the largest urban farm the NATION has ever seen…”

    And, as a former longtime Boston resident & booster, jerry jeff:
    Detroit has a total area of 143.0 square miles (370 km2); of this, 138.8 square miles (359 km2) is land and 4.2 square miles (11 km2) is water.
    Boston has a total area of 89.6 square miles (232.1 km2)—48.4 square miles (125.4 km2) (54.0%) of land and 41.2 SQUARE MILES (106.7 km2) (46.0%) OF WATER
    i.e., the stat’ is correct, and Detroit is a lot larger – has a lot more land – than Boston.

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  • Aphrodite

    There are over 3,000 urban farms and gardens in the city of Detroit, THIS will NOT be the first one.

  • sue

    SuePosted July 31, 2012 at 5:45 pm | PermalinkAs
    of August, 2012, Hantz is trying to grow a crop of trees that take many
    years to mature. How is this supposed to help Detroit? Sure it would
    cut the grass and clean the lots, but the same thing will happen if the
    city would let it’s citizens, who want land to build on, buy the land.
    We are blocked at every turn. We can’t even buy lots next to our homes.
    Is this justice? Many people would feel better if the project was
    headed by a committee that represented the people instead of one
    businessman trying to set up his own private plantation in a city with a
    large minority population.