i had the good fortune to get eric toensmeier to come and hang out in detroit for a couple of days this week. on monday i went and picked him up in pinconning mi, as the good folks at island were kind enough to drive him down from bellaire. i promptly managed to lock my keys in the car, and while i was a little embarrassed by this mishap, it just meant that eric and i could get to know each other in a gas station over coffee and french fries while we waited for someone to open up the car.
i’m pretty certain eric was sick of being in the car – but i did want to show him a couple of highlights of the city, and knowing that he was a plant geek first, and an urban ag. geek second i tailored the tour a little different from one just for urban ag folks. first a walk of a couple of sites in the neighborhood – a visit to the orchard we planted last spring at hope takes root community garden, and then quick peak at brother nature’s place. by then i was getting hungry and i wanted eric to have an idea of the place he would be doing the workshop at, so we stopped at cedarland before going to u of m dearborn. we walked around the grounds of the environmental interpretive center and then headed to the belle isle conservatory and finally work, before heading home and going over presentation for the next day.
the next day the workshop at u of m went really well i think – and i hope everyone had a good time. first part of the day was a presentation about the work done at nuestras raices from the perspective of using permaculture to link all of those projects together for social and economic development. then we took those lessons learned from holyoke and applied them to detroit. first we mapped out some of our needs.
then we listed what resources we had – especially trying to look at what resources are usually seen as waste in our system that we could rethink as something useful.
are you getting sick of pictures of white boards? yeah me too. then it was time for lunch – and what an amazing lunch provided by angela and gregg from detroit evolution lab.
a veggie shepherd’s pie type thing with local winter vegetables, and salad with sunflower sprouts from raw detroit community farms.
afterwords we got into the breakout sessions – knowing that we couldn’t tackle all the needs we had listed, we quickly picked 6 things we wanted to address – not necessarily the most important – just the ones we wanted to work on.
then we broke into 6 groups and started to come up with solutions
the idea was that each group had to come up with solutions to the needs of detroit – utilizing the resources we already have, rather than looking for outside resources, while at the same time trying to come up with ideas that would be financially self supporting and help to build community wealth and happiness. then the task was to try to connect those ideas to other needs to try to solve for the most needs with one solution. folks came up with some really great ideas a quick over view of what was presented.
1. working with school groups and elders in the community to make plantings in vacant lots which would help to remediate the soil, beautify the neighborhood, and make a deal with the city that if the community cleaned it up – they got control, and creating jobs in bioremediation.
2. agritourism of gardens sites in the city which give opportunity for sales of products but also the sharing and celebration of the gardeners and their story.
3. the creation of curbside compost pickup – local youth employed to pick up compost with bike carts – are able to provide a service as well as a product in the form of finished compost
4. the creation of a detroit based “energy drink” a substitute for high fructose laden soda – made with juices from local fruits and sweetened with local honey. creates jobs for fruit growers, beekeepers, and processors.
there were lots of other great ideas – but those are just the first that came to mind. it was a really good day, and i feel as though i got a lot out of the day, and i hope others did too.