10,000 Acres of Farmland - in Inner Detroit?

Community agriculture this is not. Large scale, urban agriculture is the vision of wealthy businessman and 20-year Detroit resident John Hantz that would transform blighted, East Side's vacant and city-owned properties into a profit-making tree farm.
July 8, 2012, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Matthew Dolan writes of John Hantz' ambitious proposal that counts many backers, including Mayor . Since his initial proposal, Hantz has downsized to "200 acres to start". It's gaining supporters, including Mayor Dave Bing.

While other Rust Belt cities have vacant properties, none are in the scale of Detroit.

From Interactive Graphic - Motor City Vacancy: "After losing more than 1 million residents since 1950, Detroit has a greater share of vacant land - by some estimates 40 square miles, or more than a quarter of the city's 139 square miles - than almost any other U.S. city. Dozens of groups are using some of these empty lots to grow crops. Select icons (in graphic) to see proposed and existing projects."

"Detroit has more than 200,000 vacant parcels-almost half of them residential plots-that generate no significant tax revenue and would cost more to maintain than the city can afford. Finding new uses for this land has become one of the most pressing challenges for a city that lost a quarter of its population in the past decade."

Hantz proposes to purchase "about 2,300 parcels and planting oak trees, then maybe fruit orchards and hydroponic vegetables. The hardwoods could be harvested and sold within a decade to customers looking for young trees, according to Hantz Farms."

Among the urban agriculture community, Hantz Farms is a mixed-bag.

A small-scale organic farmer quoted in the article states that "the value of Detroit's land lies not in its profit potential, but in 'community-building (and) green spaces"

Watch Matthew Dolan's Video: "A Tree Grows In Detroit" on Hantz Farms proposal.

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Published on Friday, July 6, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal - U.S.
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