Can Urban Farming Grow Detroit's Economy?

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Can Urban Farming Grow Detroit's Economy?

ICIC was recently in Detroit to participate in a roundtable on the city’s urban farming future. Kyle Polk, Senior Research Analyst joined city stakeholders from varying backgrounds to discuss urban farming’s potential for community and economic development.

Kyle is currently working in Detroit as part of Mayor Dave Bing’s Detroit Works team. On the team he is responsible for identifying, understanding and developing opportunities around Detroit’s competitive and emerging clusters. Kyle spoke of urban farming as an input within the larger food system, which is a high-potential cluster in Detroit.

Some key points that were highlighted in the conversation were:

  • Urban agriculture fits within the larger food cluster as an economic input. But, there are areas within the food cluster that are more economically valuable for employment and tax revenue, such as processing and value add.
  • Urban farms cannot compete with rural farms in terms of price per acre - they must compete through product differentiation and value. 
  • Opportunity in urban farming is not around scale of the farm, it is around the niche market that the farm is going to compete in (e.g. ethnic food or pharmaceutical grade herbs).
  • Detroit specifically offers a large and varied labor pool,  one of the largest water and sewage systems in the world and a strong statewide agricultural cluster.
  • City assets offer urban farms unique competitive advantages over their rural counterparts. Detroit specifically offers a talented labor pool, water system, infrastructure and a strong statewide agricultural cluster.
  • Incumbent residents and local stakeholders are the true engines of urban agriculture success. Detroit Black Food Security Network, Earthworks and Greening of Detroit and the Detroit Food Policy Council are critical components in the future of urban farming and the food cluster

Click here for a full video of the roundtable discussion. 

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By Sal Gatanio on 05/30/2012




BY Mary Duggan on May 25th, 2012

TAGS: food | detroit | economic development | urban farming | land use | clusters

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