Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy this summer opened up the floodgates for stories of its decline. Documentary films, photo essays, and articles reveal a once-proud American city, home to world’s highest-paid workers and a strong middle class, as a shell of its former self. Some residents are finding hope among the abandoned neighborhoods, crumbling municipal buildings, and rusting car factories that made the motor city hum.
People like musician and urban farmer Tommy Spaghetti are talking about the opportunities for a new Motor City product: food. Urban Roots is a documentary film that follows the urban farming phenomenon in Detroit, where rows of dark soil and fresh vegetables are transforming the blighted landscape. I spoke with Mathew Schmid when it came out in 2011 about the seeming paradox of urban farming, and what makes Detroit a seedbed for the movement:
This is my earlier conversation with Mathew Schmid, co-producer along with Leila Connors of Urban Roots. The film was directed by Mark MacInnis and is now available on DVD.
Here’s an update since we spoke…in April of this year, Detroit passed an urban agriculture ordinance, the result of a long collaboration between city zoning officials and numerous organizations and community action groups, some of whom appeared in the film. The ordinance addresses a variety of gardening and farming practices, allowing urban farming “by right” in all six of the city’s residential districts.