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It’s encouraging to hear that “productive conversations” between a farming initiative and Detroit bureaucrats are happening. Mapos sincerely hopes that this is genuine and not just wishful thinking. If there is something Detroit does not need is another hollow reason to get their hopes up.

My Detroiter brother sent this link that outlines these conversations as well as the pros and cons of building a substantial commercial farm within city limits. As with any urban “project,” the concerns are real and should not be discredited: an increase in truck traffic in residential areas or a conflict with existing agricultural businesses in Michigan that rightly need support for their own continued existence. What should not happen is to let a very good idea die because it is difficult to implement or simply because it is not business-as-usual. I do not think urban agriculture will cure Detroit’s ills. At least not alone. What is certain, however, is that business-as-usual will not.

“I think it’s better to generate some tax revenue from somebody,” says a local zoning attorney. Take a cue from New York, where Mayor Bloomberg readily tries new programs by couching them as prototypes and urban experiments so he can circumvent lengthy bureaucratic approval processes. If they don’t work, shutter the program and move on and chalk it up to a valiant effort that didn’t pan out. Something, anything, is better than nothing.

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Today, 800 billion hectares of land (the size of Brazil) is needed for the agricultural uses that feed us – both for human consumption and for animal feed. In the next 50 years, the world population is expected to increase by 50%. Do we have another Brazil lying around?

And what’s more, should we continue to produce the food that contributes to our collective poor health (obesity, diabetes, etc.) and takes increasing amounts of fuel to truck it from the fields to the urban centers?

Could we grow healthy produce closer to our population centers? Could we add hectares within our cities? What kinds of issues could vertical urban farming address? What questions arise?

This past summer, at the Pioneers of Change Arts Festival on Governors Island, a Dutch consortium led by uber-crunk MVRDV showed some startling realities. Check them out on YouTube here:

Food City

Food Print City