Urban Farming: Detroit Grows its Own Good News Story
A community's attempt to regenerate its neighbourhood by urban farming has really borne fruit – with some help from a DJ crew
It is all too rare that a piece of journalism makes a difference. But the exceptions – when they come – make everything worthwhile.
That is certainly the case with my experience of reporting on the amazing work of Mark Covington and the Georgia Street Community Collective as they seek to change the decaying face of Detroit through urban farming.
Covington's story is simple. Finding himself unemployed and living back in the blighted neighbourhood that he had grown up in, he decided to improve things by turning vacant lots into vegetables plots. Not only did the work improve the look of Georgia Street it also started to change local people's lives: reasserting community pride and helping people have healthier diets in a city where fresh food is unforgivably scarce.
My story wondered why – at a time of massive bank bailouts – Covington was having great trouble raising enough grant money to buy a dilapidated building and turn it into a community centre. Then, after my article came out, an anonymous donor came through with the cash. The community centre was purchased.
But that was just the first story. I returned earlier this year for a second, wider story on urban farming in Detroit and, again, looked at the work of the Georgia Street Community. Now, after having read my second piece, another group of people have stepped up to the plate to lend a hand to Covington as he strives to turn Detroit into a positive place.
One of the UK's top DJ outfits, Above and Beyond, have shot a video for their next single, On A Good Day (Metropolis). The wonderful piece of film features the good folks of Georgia Street turning a spot of typical Detroit wasteland into a garden, transforming their neighbourhood piece by piece into a better place to live. It was directed by Steve Glashier, who has also made videos for famous names like Fatboy Slim and Juliette Lewis. It's superb, not least for featuring ordinary Detroiters and showing the city in a positive light.
There is also a short film showing the making of the video that contains a highly informative history of Detroit and its problems, and explains how urban farming is helping change its image of from one synonymous with urban decay to one that promises a renewal into a very different type of place. But best news of all is that, as part of their 2011 US tour, Above and Beyond will now also be playing a Detroit charity gig to raise money for Georgia Street's future projects, which now include building a computer lab and a neighbourhood library.