MSU Plants Seeds for New Detroit Future! – 2012





In July 2012, I attended the kick-off meeting of the MetroFoodPlus cluster at the Michigan State University  Tollgate Center in Novi.  Dr. Rick Foster, the MSU professor who convened the gathering, opened the session by saying, “The question isn’t ‘Should we turn Detroit into the worldwide research and innovation engine for urban agriculture, the question is how do we do it?’”  And as a proud Spartan,  I have to say that the meeting provided some bright glimmers of hope that Detroit can find a new future in agriculture – as strange as it may seem.

Dr. Foster said that MSU sustainability researchers have concluded the three major challenges confronting the world in 2050 will be food, water, and energy.  Not surprising, considering that the globe’s population will be north of nine billion!  How can Detroit play a role?  According to Foster, most of the population growth will occur in the cities and bringing food into the cities will become increasingly difficult as land and energy resources diminish and/or become more costly.  With its access to the Great Lakes and Michigan’s agriculture diversity, Detroit could become a catalyst for creating sustainable urban farming processes.

Needless to say, the “how do we do it” answers won’t be easy, but the right people from the right organizations are involved in this effort from the get go – including Dan Carmody (Detroit Eastern Market Corporation), Betti Wiggins (Detroit Public Schools), and Robert Anderson (City of Detroit Mayor’s Office), to name a few.  As the day progressed (the meeting was more than competently facilitated by Henk Van Latesteijn and Sander Mager, two urban agriculture experts from Value Mediation Partners in the Netherlands), ideas and energy emerged to meet the challenge laid out by Dr. Foster of making Detroit the “Silicon Valley of Urban Agriculture.”  I felt lucky to be involved and wish the effort much success!