In a recent post, I talked about chef-sharing services where instead of having to cook, someone can order home-cooked meals. While it could reduce the need for and cost of a kitchen, it doesn’t quite go with my earlier premise of a new minimalism where the cost of ownership increase so much that only the top 1% of the population will be able to indulge in non-shared ownership.
In Detroit, Michigan, a new initiative has begun – the first fully urban agrihood creating produce and fresh air for a whole neighbourhood. Before going into details, let’s review exactly what an agrihood is. The website This Slow Life quotes NPR which describes an agrihood as:
…development-supported agriculture, a more intimate version of community-supported agriculture – a farm-share program commonly known as CSA. In planning a new neighborhood, a developer includes some form of food production – a farm, community garden, orchard, livestock operation, edible park – that is meant to draw in new buyers, increase values and stitch neighbors together.
Up until recently, agrihoods have mostly had the look and feel of a hipster’s alternative to a golf course. All around the U.S., communities are cropping up where developers sell the concept of getting back to nature to families who want to participate in the alimentation cycle of the family. As the NPR quote suggests, these predominantly rural communities are developed with an eye of drawing in new buyers. It’s consumerism masking itself as environmentalism. And while there is nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t address the issues of increased food costs and decreased corporate food quality.
This is where the Detroit project is different. Developed by the Michigan University Farming Initiative, this urban agrihood isn’t a new development – it’s a redevelopment of one part of a highly urbanized area. There’s no interest in drawing in new buyers – the MUFI agrihood will feed 2,000 households for free.
And not only that, it will use an abandoned building (which Detroit has a surplus of) to create a Community Resource Center that will teach nutritional literacy and address worries of food security.
By being run by volunteers, the program greatly reduces the cost of food for those who live around the farm.
I sincerely hope that this project has phenomenal success and begins to become not a one-off curiosity, but a model for sustainable urban redevelopment not just in American cities, but urban centers around the world.
Perhaps they will even become popular in my own city in the north of Spain, where any piece of open land gets claimed by some gardening-loving local who grows his or her own vegetables, raises chickens, and maybe makes their own cheese from a few goats. In fact, there is one right below my bedroom window with sheep whose baa-ing gently wakes me up in the morning.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to see neighborhoods of apartment dwellers starting to come together to fill up the roundabouts with vegetable plots and mini volunteer-run orchards?
How about where you live? Can you picture an agrihood redevelopment happening in your neighborhood? Maybe even in place of what’s currently a big-box supermarket?