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CityLab
Economy

Growing Pains for Detroit's Urban Farms

Agriculture flourishes in the city’s vacant lots—but can it survive the push toward revitalization?
Alyssa Trimmer and Matt Steiner grow vegetables on lots in Detroit’s Virginia Park neighborhood.
Alyssa Trimmer and Matt Steiner grow vegetables on lots in Detroit’s Virginia Park neighborhood.Jessica Leigh Hester/CityLab

DETROIT, Mich.—On a sunny summer afternoon, an ice cream truck sits parked near Woodrow Wilson and West Euclid Street in Detroit, in front of two boarded-up homes with sagging porches and shin-high grass. The doors bear signs warning that the homes are facing foreclosure and imminent transfer to the Detroit Land Bank. The truck’s jingle rings down the block, clanging along with wind chimes. Nearby, a man maneuvers a riding lawnmower in circles around a vacant lot; another batters nails down into his front steps, blanketed with astroturf.

Alyssa Trimmer adjusts a sprinkler hooked up to the side of her house. It douses rows of collards and tomatoes in raised beds. The homes that once stood on each side were dismantled long before Trimmer and her partner, Matt Steiner, arrived here from Pittsburgh four years ago.