The idea of an Agri-Hood in the past has always been a suburban context. Agri-Hoods have popped up around the United States over the past few years, most of them still in the planning or construction phase. I have viewed Agri-Hoods as America’s new “golf course community”, where houses on large lots meander between green areas, ponds, orchards, vegetable gardens, and greenhouses. Instead of a Par 3 behind your house, you might have a grove of apple trees. Agri-Hoods are a fascinating idea, however two major issues have come up so far:
- Agri-Hoods perpetuate urban sprawl that has plagued North American cities for the past 70 years. The low density nature of Agri-Hoods mean that they are entirely car dependent, and they are not likey to have public transportation as an available mode of connectivity.
- In current Agri-Hoods, the amount of agriculture in comparison to residential is minimal. Some Agri-Hoods feature less than 10% of agriculture in comparison to residential. “Greenwashing” becomes an issue since developers are capitalizing on a trend to sell real estate.
In Detroit, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) is creating what they call America’s first urban Agri-Hood on a 3-acre development site. MUFI is a non-profit organization that “engage members of the Michigan community in sustainable agriculture”.
The Agri-Hood in this context is very different, where an agricultural community hub is being built on the North Side of Detroit to generate urban renewal and provide sustainable healthy food to the local community. A dilapidated three-story building will be re-imagined as a Community Resource Center that will include operational space for the non-profit organization, along with multi-purpose rooms for culinary and agricultural education, and industrial kitchens for business incubators.
Across the street from the Community Resource Center is MUFI’s 2-acre urban farm that has already produced over 50,000 pounds of produce for the local community. This food is distributed to households in a 2-mile radius through a “pay-what-you-can” model, local markets, restaurants, as well as churches and shelters.
While I’m not sure if this should be classified as an urban Agri-Hood just yet, it definitely is a Food Hub, where produce is grown and then distributed in an organized network throughout Detroit. The development concepts display a small orchard and vineyard on two other properties behind the urban farm, so the tentacles of an urban Agri-Hood are spreading. This is a great case study that demonstrates how culinary uses can be used to positively generate urban renewal, all while feeding the local population.
Check out the MUFI website to see the site development plan and read more about this exciting project.