DETROIT — In the North End of Detroit, an ‘agrihood’ is in development. It’s a three-acre agricultural campus that will soon add a cistern near its existing urban farm, according to the non-profit Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI).
The cistern will debut this summer with $25,000 in installation grants and $75,000 in in-kind donations from Garnier®/TerraCycle® and Target Corporation. Also donating services is local waterscape architect Aaron Scarlata. MUFI and five other projects were selected by Garnier’s Green Garden 2016 Giveaway contest, but online voting resulted in the grant going to “America’s First Sustainable Urban Agrihood.”
Where a formerly blighted and recently decommissioned home sat abandoned, MUFI and its all-volunteer corp will transform the basement area into a cistern with recreational space for the neighborhood around it. The water harvesting capabilities will reduce the farm’s reliance on public water sources.
The new outdoor space will be outfitted with composite lumber and seating and more made from recycled beauty packaging collected through Garnier and TerraCycle’s Personal Care and Beauty Recycling Program. Visitors will be able to sit at four eight-foot picnic tables or 10 square picnic tables while four gazebos will serve as a roadside market for displaying food grown at MUFI’s farm.
The cistern project will also help reduce the city’s combined sewer overflows.
“Through the cistern we are able to prevent water run-off into the city’s aging sewer system, which overflows during heavy rains. The water we collect will automatically irrigate the urban farm through technology,” said Tyson Gersh, MUFI founder and president.
How to Farm a Food Desert
About 2,000 households, churches and food pantries are located within two square miles of the farm, according to MUFI. The nearest grocery store is more than one mile away, making the North End neighborhood officially a food desert.
“Essentially we are the neighborhood produce store…Most residents in the North End are elderly and don’t have access to reliable transportation,” said Gersh.
Since the first growing season in 2012, MUFI has distributed more than 50,000 pounds of fresh produce, he told EfficientGov.
The farm, the harvest and its capacity building depends on attracting about 8,000 volunteers annually.
“[They] work on a variety of projects including planting and harvesting, neighborhood clean-up and beautification,” said Gersh.
Anchor Community Center in Development
In addition, MUFI’s crowdfunding campaign — crowdgranting via Patroncity could help leverage a matching Michigan Economic Development Council grant that would increase support for the agrihood’s ongoing $1 million community center project.
Many partners have been helping to renovate and create an education and community center in another formerly abandoned building at the site. MUFI’s vision is that the farm, community center, cistern garden space and other features will change the outlook for Detroit’s North End neighborhood.
MUFI’s mission for “America’s First Sustainable Urban Agrihood” is to drive mixed use development by centering the neighborhood’s economic growth in urban agriculture.