Green in the D—Introducing some of Detroit’s Greatest Green Thumbs
Story By: Biba Adams
Join us as we explore urban gardens, organizations that specialize in tree planting, chefs, and cannabis growers.
The city of Detroit has a long history of agriculture. Ribbon farms set up by French settlers in the 1800s helped lay the foundation for the city’s current layout. Many of those families still have streets named after them, like the St. Aubin family and the Beaubien family.
African Americans who lived in the city and particularly those who migrated to Detroit from the south during the Great Migration amid the Jim Crow-era frequently cultivated gardens in the yards of their homes.
As Detroit’s population is declining, more empty lots are prompting urban agriculture proponents to create more urban farms which overset the negative effects of shrinkage like neglect and instead generate job opportunities and bring fresh fruits and vegetables to residents.
According to UrbanUtopias.net,there are many other benefits to urban farming for Detroiters including beautification, increased physical activity for residents, and a positive effect on climate change and the use of fossil fuels since most food in the U.S. travels more than 1,500 miles on average from farm to table.
It has been estimated that there are more than 3,000 farms and gardens in Detroit generating approximately 5% of the city’s produce.
Here are a few of our favorite urban farms. Be sure to visit and support them—online and in-person.
D-Town Farm sits on 7-acres in the heart of Detroit’s Rouge Park. One of the most well-known urban farms in the metro area, D-Town farm is dedicated to promoting the value of food security for communities that have been historically disenfranchised and subjected to food deserts.
The farm also features beekeeping, solar energy, and large-scale composting.
Earthworks is 2.5 acres of unique edible flowers many of which aren’t commonly found in the U.S. as well as a diverse array of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Operated by the Capuchin friars, their products are sold via the Grown in Detroit co-op and are served to thousands of disadvantaged Detroiters who visit the Capuchin Soup Kitchen annually.
Located in the historic North End, Oakland Avenue Urban Farm is a program of North End Christian Community Development Corporation, is a non-profit,community-base organization dedicated to cultivating healthy foods, sustainable economies, and active cultural environments.
Oakland Avenue is a part of the Shop Detroit Farms which is a collaborative network of Detroit growers and producers working to provide food that is environmentally and socially just. According to their website, the organization “uplifts and celebrates black leadership, black self-determination, and black joy.”
An “agrihood” which is focused on making its farm central to this emerging neighborhood, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is a 3-acre farm focused on food insecurity in North End. The MUFI plans to create a community resource center and offers its neighbors the use of tools and other items necessary to maintain their personal gardens. Working in close collaboration with the North End Block Club, the MUFI encourages its many volunteers to perform large cleaning projects that benefit the whole neighborhood.
Produce at MUFI is free to all and the farm is open for harvesting on Saturday mornings.
In addition to urban farms—parks are great green spaces in Detroit. Here are a few of our favorite parks and green spaces in the cit.
The Dequindre Cut Greenway is a two-mile urban recreational path that opened to the public in May 2009, but has continued to evolve over the years. The greenway features a 20-foot-wide paved pathway with separate lanes for pedestrian and bike traffic. There are also several murals along the paths in the Cut perfect for art aficionados.
Entrance ramps to the Cut are located at Atwater Street, Franklin Street, Woodbridge Street, Lafayette Street, Gratiot Avenue, Wilkins Street and Mack Avenue.
With more than 1,100 acres of green space with 12 playgrounds, 3 swimming pools, and multiple ball fields—Rouge Park is one of the oldest and most family-friendly parks in the city.
The park has numerous waterways and tributaries including the Franklin River, Farmbrook Branches, and Pebble Creek. The largest park in the city of Detroit, Rouge Park is supported by The Friends of Rouge Park—a dynamic non-profit group who raise funds to maintain the space through special events, fundraising, and tourism.
It’s been called The Jewel of the City of Detroit. Belle Isle Park is a 982-acre island park located in Detroit with historic, environmental, and cultural resources that have been beloved for generations. The park is home to the Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Belle Isle Nature Center, the James Scott Memorial Fountain, and more.
Entry to the park is $11 for an annual pass for Michiganders, but those who walk or bike onto the island do not have to pay to enter. A guest pass is $9 per day per car.
For our last “Green in the D” category, get to know some of Detroit’s recreational cannabis dispensaries.
Cannabis became recreationally legal in Michigan in 2018. The state has generated more than $985 million in revenue in the industry in 2020 and more than $1 billion in 2021. As cannabis becomes more popular among adults 21 and up, the industry has spawned supporting businesses like growers, cannabis food creators, and cannabis events. We compiled a few of our favorite dispensaries where one can purchase Michigan’s new favorite “flower.”
One of the newer dispensaries in the metro area, Common Citizen believes people matter above all else and the things that unite us are greater than our differences. They write on their website that they “believe we all share a common experience of striving to be the best version of ourselves every day.”
Common Citizen has four stores in the state with Hazel Park being one of the best and biggest that features medical and recreational sales. Their Detroit store is located downtown and is for medical clients only.
Common Citizen stores sell cannabis flower, CBD products, and more.
A Black-owned dispensary, House of Zen sets itself apart with some of the most unique and tasty edible THC products in the metro area. From peanut butter to honey, House of Zen offers more than 40 different edibles. Located near Eastern Market, the store also features products from some of the most desirable growers across the state.
Reviewers have rated House of Zen a 4.7 out of 5. One reviewer wrote, “For a startup, they have a nice wide range of quality strains. The staff is friendly and it’s refreshing to see a minority-owned and woman-owned dispensary.” Other reviewers call shopping at House of Zen, a great experience with great specials and amazing service.
With a very cool location in Hamtramck, Pleasantrees is one of the metro area’s most popular cannabis retail locations. According to the company website, Every Pleasantrees store is designed with one goal in mind: to make you feel more welcome than any dispensary you’ve visited.
Pleasantrees has knowledgeable “Guides” who greet you with a warm smile, a genuine interest in your needs, and will help you find the right product every time. Prices at Pleasantrees can start as low as $10 and their knowledgeable staff makes the shopping experience also a learning one as well.