Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Farming in Foreclosures

Here's an idea that could take root in Memphis. So to speak.

A nonprofit group in Detroit — Memphis' unofficial sister city — is farming derelict land to grow food for the needy.

NPR's Morning Edition says Urban Farming has a 20-plot pilot program in which volunteers tend the gardens and the city of Detroit picks up the water bill. The plots aren't fenced off, so anyone can pick the produce for free and anything leftover is donated to a food bank.

If that weren't enough, the program fights blight in a city that last year, with more than 7,000 idle properties, topped the nation in foreclosures.

"Turns out that urban farms do attract people, says Gail Carr, one of Detroit's city managers. She has houses boarded up nearly every day and sees what a dramatic difference the gardens have on communities.

'People are coming out of their homes who wouldn't come out under other circumstances because they didn't think there was still a community or a neighbor or a friendly person nearby,' she says."

The last time I looked at vacant property here, Shelby County was the "proud" owner of about 3,000 parcels it couldn't get rid of. There was talk of creating a land bank with the city — part of the problem is that when property owners default on their taxes, they default to both the city and the county.

The other part of the problem is that those properties weren't earning taxes for anyone, but were actually a drain on the coffers because of maintenance, mowing, and in some cases, demolition. But the alternative, letting them deteriorate even worse, is even more expensive.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center is already doing this.

k. irène said...

I am in touch with the ED for this nonprofit and she is VERY interested in starting up down here. Who should I connect her up to? I just moved back to town and I know there are people who are connected who could really help her get this moving faster...

marycash said...

Looks like I'm going to have to give Peace and Justice a call and see how it's going.

Anonymous said...

This is being done in Birmingham, AL... I think it's called "Jones Valley cooperative." Anyway, you can check on www.al.com to find more info.

Anonymous said...

Well, whaddya know... Here is a link to "Jones Valley Urban Farm" in Birmingham: www.jvuf.org

k. irène said...

Even if Mid South Peace and Justice is already doing it, they truly might want to partner with an organization that is very successful on a much larger scale (they are all over, not just in Detroit). I would imagine they'd definitely want to communicate with each other at the very least. Strength in numbers, especially if it possibly means learning some tactics in dealing with obstinate local governments with shady mayors...

Anonymous said...

Great idea for 'Miz Cash' to bring this up. Memphis is ripe for such an opportunity! Seeing the success w/ the program in B'ham, this would be fantastic for residents of Memphis - especially the young people. God knows teens & children these days need activities that get them physically active, and this would also help promote healthy food choices. Would also promote social skills, positive interaction, teamwork... so many good things.