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The world's largest urban farm, or not?

Detroit may be on the brink of a resurgence. Will a proposal to buy 10,000 acres of inner-city land on the cheap help Detroit, or aid in the city's continued demise?
Written by Sonya James, Contributor on

Whether a manifest dream, a land grab, or a prophetic act, when John Hantz saw swaths of vacant land in inner-city Detroit he thought big. Really big.

He proposed paying a tenth of what the city wanted per acre to plant the world's largest for-profit urban farm.

The controversy has been rocking Detroit ever since. Land sale needs formal approval from the city council and mayor - and urban farming policy needs a thorough re-articulation in general.

Finding uses for Detroit's vacant land has been on top of the agenda for city government, residents, entrepreneurs, and community organizers for a long time.

Matthew Dolan of The Wall Street Journal writes, "This summer, a city commission plans public hearings on a zoning ordinance that would permit for-profit farming. That process will force Detroiters to confront awkward questions about their city's development prospects. Among them: Is the abundance of vacant land an asset or a liability?"

The over 200,000 vacant parcels generate no significant tax revenue.

Mr. Hantz says,  Detroit "cannot create value until we create scarcity. Large-scale farming could begin to take land out of circulation in a positive way."

But there are reasons long-time urban farming advocates question Mr. Hantz's motivation.

"Hantz Farms officials acknowledge their self-funded venture would create few new jobs in the short term, and only modest revenue for Detroit," writes Dolan.

Kwamena Mensah, who manages the seven acre nonprofit D-Town organic farm, says Detroit's land should not be measured solely on its profit potential, but on "community-building, green spaces and places like this."

The future of Hantz Farm is yet to be seen, but one thing is clear: community organizing is powerful.

Mr. Hantz did not approach the project using a community development model. Is that why his original proposal of 10,000 acres has dwindled to a mere 200 acres?

Let SmartPlanet know what you think. Should Hantz Farm be granted 10,000 acres, or will a more community minded solution be possible within Detroit's politically fractured system?

hant2.jpg
Hantz Farm three acre demonstration project

Images: Hantz Farm; hoklife

Via: Planetizen

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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