The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN)
was formed in February 2006 to address food insecurity in Detroit’s Black community, and to organize members
of that community to play a more active leadership role in the local food security movement. We observed that
many of the key players in the local urban agriculture movement were young whites, who while well-intentioned, never-the-less,
exerted a degree of control inordinate to their numbers in Detroit’s population. Many of those individuals
moved to Detroit from other places specifically to engage in agricultural or other food security work. It
was and is our view that the most effective movements grow organically from the people whom they are designed to
serve. Representatives of Detroit’s majority African-American population must be in the leadership of
efforts to foster food justice and food security in Detroit. While our specific focus is on Detroit’s
African-American community, we realize that improved policy and an improved localized food system is a benefit to
all Detroit residents.
DBCFSN is creating model urban agricultural projects that seek to build community self-reliance,
and to change our consciousness about food. In 2006 we planted and maintained a ¼ acre garden near the 4-H
Community Center on McClellan near Gratiot on Detroit’s eastside. In 2007 we partnered with the Shrine of
the Black Madonna to plant and maintain a ¾ acre mini-farm near Broadstreet and Collingwood. This year, we
enter our second growing season at D-Town, our two acre farm at Rouge Park in Northwestern Detroit. Our produce
is grown using sustainable, chemical-free practices, and sold at the farm sites, Eastern Market, and markets for
urban growers throughout Detroit.
Since our inception,
we have focused our energies in three main areas: urban agriculture, policy development and co-operative buying. A brief
history of our efforts in each of these areas follows.
2006 we acquired the short-term use of a ¼ acre plot near the 4-H Club on McClellan on Detroit’s eastside.
Using the “lasagna method,” we planted vegetables and herbs, developed work schedules, and served as a
sight on the Detroit Garden Tour. Unfortunately, that site was purchased by a developer, and we were not
able to use it after the fall of 2006.
June 2007 we acquired use of a ½ acre lot, on Collingwood at Cascade, on Detroit’s westside, owned by the Pan
African Orthodox Christian Church. This site had previously been used as a garden site by the church, but
had not been under cultivation for a few years. We named the site D-Town Farm. ; We
created beds, walkways, an irrigation system, developed a team of daily crew leaders, acquired additional tools and sold produce
both at the site itself and at Eastern Market. We held our First Annual Harvest Festival in September of
2007. We fully expected to plant at the site in the April of 2008, but we were notified in March that the
church had plans for its own use of the site.
June 2008, we acquired use of a two acre site in the City of Detroit’s Meyers’ Tree Nursery in Rouge Park as the
long-term home for D-Town Farm. This acquisition was the result of two years of meetings and negotiations
with the Detroit City Council, and the City’s Planning, General Services and Recreation Departments. We
were able to get a license agreement to use the site for $1 annually for ten years. We continued to build
on the template that we had developed over the previous two years for bed preparation, planting, pest management, watering,
work schedules, daily crew leaders, and harvesting. We expanded the number of farmers markets that we participated
in. We held our=2 0Second Annual Harvest Festival on October 4, 2008. Through the support
of the Garden Resource Program, we installed a 12’ X 20’ hoophouse in late September. We hope
to begin operation of a 36’ X 90’ high tunnel hoophouse during the 2009 growing season.
In June of 2006 the
Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) spoke before the Neighborhood and Community Service Standing Committee
of the Detroit City Council Chaired by Council Member JoAnn Watson. We pointed out that Detroit did not
have a comprehensive food security policy, and discussed with the committee the benefits of developing such a policy.
We were appointed to head a task force to develop a food security policy for the City of Detroit.
the next 18 months, the DBCFSN’s Public Policy Committee researched, wrote and revised several drafts of a food security
policy for the City of Detroit. The committee’s work was presented at a public review session held
as part of our September 2007 Harvest Festival. The Public Policy Committee revised the proposed policy,
incorporating much of the feedback received at the public review session. We then sent the draft to Wayne
State University professor, and nationally recognized food policy expert, Dr. Kami Pothukuchi, for her review and critique.
Dr. Pothukuchi made several recommendations that were also incorporated into the final draft. The
draft was presented to the Neighborhood and Community Service Standing Committee of the Detroit City Council and placed on
the City Council’s agenda by Council Member Watson’s committee for approval. The City Council unanimously passed
a resolution adopting the policy on March 25, 2008.
furthering the establishment of a more food secure Detroit, we have continued to work with Council Member Watson’s committee
on the development of a Detroit Food Policy Council. From April through October 2008 the DBCFSN Public
Policy Committee conducted research on Food Policy Councils throughout North America. We examined the mission, number of members,
attributes desired in members, structure, terms of office, relationship to government, and meeting schedule of food policy
councils or similar bodies in Toronto, Vancouver, Portland/Multnomah, Washington D.C., Cleveland/Cuyahoga County, New Haven,
New Jersey, Chicago, Grand Rapids, and the Native American Tribal Council. DBCFSN held a public discussion,
on the proposed food policy council, at our Harvest Festival on October 4, 2008. On October 7, 2008,
the Detroit City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the creation of the Detroit Food Policy Council.
presented an initial draft of our recommendations for establishing and operating the Detroit Food Policy Council, for public
comment, at a lis tening session at Eastern Market on November 14, 2008. More than 75 people attended the
session sponsored by DBCFSN, Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative, Eastern Market Corporation and the C.S. Mott Group for
Sustainable Food Systems at Michigan State University. Representatives from many organizations attended
the session including Greening of Detroit, Detroit Agricultural Network – Garden Resource Program, Capuchin Soup Kitchen
– Earthworks Urban Farm, Vandalia Gardens, SEED Wayne, The Farm, Multi-Cultural Minority Agricultural Initiative, Urban
Agitropolis Project, Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative, BECA Project, Alternatives for Girls, 4C of Detroit, Focus Hope,
Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, Restaurant Opportunities Center-Michigan, Hush House, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice,
Food System Economic Partnership, Eat Local Food, Be Fit Inc., WARM Training Center, Avalon Bakery, Goodwells
Market, Consumers Unlimited, Save-a Lot, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers,
and Clement Carpentry.
November 20, 2008 we arranged a visit to Detroit by Wayne Roberts, the Manager of the Toronto Food Policy Council.
Mr. Roberts addressed the Neighborhood and Community Services Committee of the Detroit City Council and gave a public
lecture at Wayne State University later that evening.
Cooperative Buying (Suspended)
August 2008, after four months of planning, we initiated the Ujamaa Food Co-op Buying Club. The monthly
buying club offered organic and other healthy food choices at discount prices. Food
co-operatives help members to realize a significant savings on their food bills by purchasing in bulk, and eliminating the
overhead associated with supermarkets and other retail stores. By working together, members and others
purchasing from the co-op built a greater sense of community.
due to unresolved issues with the distritibutor, the Ujamaa Food Co-op Buying Club was suspended on May 2016.