I was really fascinated by this map, detroit sprawlwhich shows how very sprawled Detroit is, compared to other large metropolitan areas. From a Freep story:

“Detroit, where the population peaked at 2 million in the early 1950s, is home to about 900,000 today and is still losing people. The depopulation and demolition of abandoned properties has left the city dotted with thousands of vacant parcels, ranging from single home lots to open fields of many acres…

This abundance of vacant land has people talking about new uses, such as urban farming, reforesting the city, and large-scale recreational areas. Urban farming is getting the most buzz. ”

What could be done with all that land?  If the current foreclosure and population losses continue, Detroit could be 50% vacant in the next 5 to 10 years.
I put that in bold, because it’s truly mind boggling.

MSU has a plan:

“Given the amount of open land, I think there’s a real opportunity for Detroit to provide a significant amount of its fruits and vegetables for its population and the surrounding area,” said Mike Hamm, the C.S. Mott Chair of Sustainable Agriculture at MSU.

Besides providing nutritional value for Detroiters, Hamm said, “I think it can help create jobs and some small businesses in the city, with the potential for spin-off businesses in processing and distribution.”

This could be a really cool experiment.  I really hope they can find funding and get the city to work with them.

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Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. I think this is a great idea! It’s different, but it just might work out. I hope they get the opportunity to do this.

  2. My first post here.

    One of the challenges is going to be moving people from the emptying neighborhoods. This has been discussed for some years because there are neighborhoods in which most of the buildings are vacant or filled with squatters, but some legal residents remain. Consolidating the population would help the city budget. Road crews, snowplows, police patrols, utility workers, etc. have to cover a huge area.

    BTW urban agriculture has been a growing trend in Detroit. (pun intended). The Detroit Agriculture Network, the Greening of Detroit, and several other groups have been turning vacant land into sustenance gardens for locals.

    I believe the ball really got rolling with the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Earth Works Garden. There’s a story about that here, just FYI:



  3. There’s a lot of people working on this lately — here’s a Virginia-based blog that’s running a list of resources for rebuilding/regreening Detroit:


    Also, there’s been a running conversaion on Twitter with the hash tag #d09 — no clue if that’s relevant to you or not.

    Zoning laws and building codes will be a problem — we need to work with city hall to relax reguations and encourage innovation.

  4. I stay as far away from Twitter as possible, so not sure about the tag. Nice collection of resources, though!

    Given my tendencies toward online time-wasting, twitter seems like a bad idea for me :)

  5. I think there was a piece in Wired magazine about this topic?

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