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Concerns about the above

Page history last edited by Deanne Bednar 10 years, 7 months ago


Hey all,


I received a question about what's wrong with the Hantz model since

the person believes a for-profit enterprise can often be better than a

non-profit model... I thought I'd share my response in case it helped

anyone else in thinking about this issue.


here are many people that can probably illustrate the reasons this is

bad better than I can (if you are one of those people, please add

on).  One is that he wants to hop on the rightsizing bandwagon and get

up to 10,000 acres.  While I agree that for-profit enterprises is the

way to go, that is what the non-profits are working at.  They are

setting up models and training community members to have their own

businesses.  Not only would these businesses be small scale and

sustainable (Hantz' would be largely mechanized and as far as I know

non-organic), they would also empower community members.  I am not

sure how familiar you are with Detroit's history, but Detroit is the

epicenter of racism and injustice in this country.  Continually the

people of Detroit have suffered because of all the disinvestment that

has occurred in the city.  Those with mobility have moved out, leaving

a shell of a city behind.  Urban agriculture in Detroit, thus far, has

been about far more than just growing food.  In fact, in our

presentations I often say that food is just the icing on the cake.

Community gardens are about community organizing, intergenerational

dialogue, leadership development, and much more.  The small scale

businesses owned by Detroiters (who largely sell through the Grown in

Detroit cooperative, the new Detroit CSA, or other outlets) are

empowering for community members.  I don't know many gardeners/farmers

who would prefer to work for a landowner/tenant on a large mechanized

farm rather than working for themselves on a small plot of land.

Racism plays a role in this in that Hantz is holding all of the cards

and the resources and imposing this on a city that does not have those

resources and is not of the same race.  In my mind, this is somewhat

of a colonialist approach.  For me, I see it as a microcosmic model of

what we do in the "third world" where we might believe we are creating

jobs and agribusiness industry, but that industry would be created on

its own if it needs to exist.


I don't know any urban farmers in Detroit (correct me if I'm wrong)

that would want Detroit to become one large urban farm.  Urban

agriculture is a part of what Detroit needs - not the whole, or even

the largest, piece.  This is another situation where we are not

listening to the community members, but telling them what we are going

to do.  While Hantz may be well-intentioned and I do not mean to

attack him personally, I believe his model has very little to do with

community empowerment and is even disempowering.  Creating jobs and

providing fresh food without getting to the souree of why there are no

jobs and fresh food in Detroit to begin with is shortsighted to say

the least. The non-profits working on urban agriculture (especially

Earthworks Urban Farm, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network,

and The Greening of Detroit) seem to understand this.  They are

creating training models which provide people with what they need to

start their own businesses.  They are shifting resources from

foundations to people in the community, they are shifting knowledge,

and they are shifting power in the food system to the disempowered.


The other point that is often made is that there is more than enough

land to do a lot with in Detroit.  This is TRUE.  However, imagine if

we figured out what the community wanted to do with that land!

Holding neighborhood meetings, working with block clubs and figuring

out what people wanted to happen with vacant land in their community

seems much better than a very wealthy investor just buying it up to

profit off of the disinvestment that has occurred in the city.  The

people that have suffered through it all deserve to be the ones that

are building it back up in the image that they desire.  This also

reminds me of gentrification which many often see as a good thing as

well.  It may make an area look nicer, but really just displaces the

poverty.  It doesn't get at the root.  Those of us into sustainable

farming know that we need to look at things a bit more systematically

and holistically.  Hantz isn't the epitome of evil, but it is not what

urban agriculture has represented thus far.  If his model grows, then

it could mean a takeover of urban agriculture in Detroit and elsewhere

that would have serious repercussions for Detroit and other cities of

great potential.


Once again, there are more people that can answer this question better

than I.  I have yet to talk with an urban farmer/gardener who supports

the Hantz model, and I know of literally hundreds against it- I hope

that if there are any they will speak up and I can learn more.


Thanks for the question, please question my response more if you don't



Will Ahee

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