In response to Mark Dowie ’s August 1 “Food Among the Ruins, ” a smattering of responses came from readers and around the web, including Treehugger, Freakonomics, and the Detroit Free Press. Here ’s a sampler:
**From Natalia K. Gentry, Esq., Detroit, MI:**
Thank you for this truly visionary article. The plight of the Motor City has been associated with auto sales and City Council scandal, so any relief for locals has been as short-sighted. Those coming to Detroit—students, doctors, professors and the like—are astounded at the complete absence of common resources such as a grocery store. Current city leaders are focused solely on bringing business and investment to the city. The liberal use of tax incentives has shown that. However, the next generation needs to be fed in order to call Detroit home. If you feed them they will come, right? Thanks for an innovative solution to an often overlooked problem.
**From Dan Rood:**
I enjoyed your article and the optimism shown for Detroit. I was born in the city and now live in the suburbs. My co-worker and I were discussing your article in which you state that there are no grocery store [chains] like A&P, Farmer Jack, Meijer and such. What about all the Glory Food centers that took over the majority of the old Farmer Jack stores in the city? Also Food Land with at least five locations in the city is a prominent supplier of fresh food items. I think you paint a much bleaker picture of the city than is needed.
**From Tracy Doell:**
I just read Mark Dowie’s fantastic article about the agriculture potential in Detroit. Thank you for publishing such a well-written, thoughtful, and provoking piece. Rarely do I read such insight into Detroit’s shortage of nutritious food. As the executive director of a charitable group dedicated to redirecting family meals, which are comprised of fifty percent protein—a rare commodity in Detroit—I greatly appreciate the attention paid to such a problem in Detroit. I love the analogy used that a bag of chips is half as far away as a head of lettuce.
**Deborah Silver, Detroit, MI:**
As a lifelong resident of Detroit, and a landscape designer for 25 years, Dowie’s article in _Guernica_ shocked me, and provoked me. As a commissioner on the board of the Greening of Detroit, who has sponsored urban farms within the city limits for the past 20 years, I thank you for this article. I did forward it to other members of that group.
Sami Grover, in Treehugger, writes:
None of [Dowie’s vision] is that far-fetched. We’ ve already seen the incredible potential of urban aquaponics and farming demonstrated by Growing Power, rooftop hydroponics is getting increased attention, and high-tech vertical farms can produce an incredible amount of food. But given the low cost of land, Detroit’s vast size, and its dwindling population (Dowie claims Manhattan, Boston, and San Francisco could be placed inside the borders of Detroit with room to spare)—even a simpler form of land-based agriculture may actually be viable for the former Motor City.
Jeff Garrett in The Detroit Free Press writes:
Before you dismiss [Dowie’s] idea, consider that nearly a third of Detroit’s 140 square miles now lie vacant. There are more than 100,000 vacant lots in Detroit, most owned by the city. Ride down Chene on the east side, south of I-94, and you’ll see how depopulated the city has become. At least 80% of the land there, especially north of Warren, is vacant, abandoned, burned out. You can see pheasants darting through the brush near piles of tires and garbage. Detroit, with a population of nearly 2 million in the 1950s, is now home to about 830,000 people. Some experts say Detroit’s population will drop to as little as 500,000 by 2025. I’m not sure I’m ready to swap my chalk-striped suits for bib overalls, but it’s clear that reviving Detroit will take thinking outside the box. Is turning Detroit’s blighted vacant land into greenways and farms that would make Detroiters healthier an idea worth cultivating?
**Michael Berger in the Rumpus writes:**
Oakland, another city like Detroit with a large poor population that has suffered from failing industry, blight and high crime rates, is hosting its own tiny, agrarian revolution with places like City Slicker Farms. Like in Detroit though, this “revolutionary” idea of growing your own food is deeply rooted in immigrant traditions. One of the challenges, however facing urban farmers, both Lao immigrants and young, white hipsters, is detoxifying the land, much of which has been spoiled by heavy industrial waste.
**Bill McGraw of the Detroit Free Press writes:**
Mark’s take on the “farming revolution” in Detroit is the best I have read, though I guess we’ll have to wait and see if his vision actually comes true.
**See also:** The Times Freakonomics blog