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

9/19/11Follow @XconomyDET

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that he claims was signed by 90 percent of affected residents asking the city council to work with Hantz Farms.

“I’d love to see a copy of that petition,” says Dan Lijana, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing. “We can’t attest to the methodology of their petition. If it were official, we’d have to go through a whole process of address verification. That’s great that they’re trying to generate support, but for the city to verify that … we haven’t done an analysis.”

When asked if the city is in favor of Hantz Farm’s proposed project, Lijana says, “Conceptually, yes—we’re absolutely in favor.”

Rob Anderson, the city’s director of planning and development, says that he’s still waiting to see architectural plans of the Hantz Farms project so the city can fully understand the scope of the project.

“Plus, Right to Farm has been a roadblock so far,” Anderson adds. “We’re looking for a solution that isn’t just for Hantz Farms, but for a number of other smaller entities as well.”

Keith Creagh, the director of Michigan’s Department of Agriculture, disagrees with characterizing the Right to Farm Act as a roadblock. He says Governor Rick Snyder has asked his department not to be an impediment and to participate in urban agricultural initiatives by increasing access and assisting in economic recovery, but ultimately the state’s Agricultural Commission will need to approve any policy that allows local governments to bypass zoning laws that conflict with the Right to Farm Act.

“We’re asking the Commission to pre-approve local ordinances that allow commercial farming entities to negotiate directly with the cities they wish to farm in,” Creagh says. “We ought to be proactive to work with cities and businesses on safety issues and economic enterprise. We ought to be a resource and not an impediment, and that’s our goal.”

Since the Agricultural Commission isn’t expected to take up this issue until December, the fate of the Hantz Farms project remains unknown. Anderson says an agreement hasn’t been presented to the city or finalized, though he expects it to go before city council sometime in October.

“We want Hantz Farms to be successful if they go forward,” Anderson says. “We’re all ambitious and want to move fast, and the [project's] potential impact to create jobs, provide local food, and use vacant land for this type of activity has a really great shelf life. But at this point, nothing is quantified. It’s just something we’re negotiating.”

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.