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

9/19/11Follow @XconomyDET

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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 »

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.