Last night I watched the excellent and inspiring documentary ‘Urban Roots‘ at the Horticultural Society of New York. It’s a film about urban farmers, gardeners, and food and community activists who are taking over the hundreds (thousands?) of acres of vacant lots in Detroit, MI and making them into productive landscapes that address ecological and economic problems at the same time – in other words, healing Detroit by healing and cultivating the earth. Or as one young woman said, “turning Motown into Growtown!” And it’s happening elsewhere, too. For example, at the Healing Landscapes Sustainability Symposium in Cleveland, OH this past February, I learned of several similar projects in the Cleveland area, and even in my own city of Beacon, NY, we have the Green Teen program, which “empowers urban youth to be effective community change-agents by immersing them in the local food system” and the CSA (community-supported agriculture) Common Ground Farm.
What impressed me about the movement in Detroit is individuals working at a grass-roots level (no pun intended…) to solve deep economic, social, and environmental problems for themselves instead of waiting for someone to give them a hand and do it for them. In other words, self-determination.
Some of the projects and places in the film: Brother Nature Produce, D-Town Farms, Field of Dreams (FOOD), Grown in Detroit, Eastern Market, Farnsworth Community Garden, Elmhurst, and Earthworks Urban Farm.
At the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, we focus on gardens and landscapes in the healthcare setting and on research and evidence-based design, because no other organization is doing this kind of work on an interdisciplinary level. But our mission is to serve as a “knowledge base and gathering space about healing gardens, restorative landscapes, and other green spaces that promote health and well-being.” That means any landscape, wild or designed, urban or suburban or rural, large or small, that facilitates health. And preferably the health of not just humans but animals and the planet as a whole.
For information on these broader topics, visit our website’s Other Healing Landscapes section. We’re still adding to this, but right now we have pages on community gardens, gardens in prisons, and memorial gardens. Input and suggestions are always welcome.
Thanks to the Horticultural Society of New York for screening the film, to Mark McInnis for making the film, and most of all, to the people of Detroit for their inspiring work. Keep on growing!