As the old prospecting cliché goes, "There's gold in them thar hills!" Or in the Detroit region's case, in the dirt. The Chicago Tribune
has a good piece on how vacant dirt is being turned over to cropland in Detroit and its neighboring cities.
"So-called retail agriculture, which includes direct-to- consumer, organic and local-foods sales, had revenue of $8 billion in the U.S. farm census in 2007, compared with $7 billion combined for cotton and rice, according to a 2010 study done by Local Food Strategies for the Farm Credit Council, the trade group representing small-town credit unions and other rural banks...
The vision is drawing attention from landowners ranging from Willerer, who is making enough money from farming to give up a teaching job and is snapping up vacant lots, to John Hantz, a financial services professional and entrepreneur who has pledged to buy blighted properties to create the world's biggest urban tree farm.
By selling at farmers markets, local restaurants and a community-supported agriculture project that sells his goods directly to consumers, Willerer said he can make $20,000 to $30,000 per acre in a year. In addition to the acre he farms on vacant lots, Willerer cultivates another three acres outside the city and is preparing to start a fourth.
Michigan has the fourth-biggest number of farmers markets, trailing California, New York and Illinois, according to a USDA report this week. Among its attempts to nurture small-scale agriculture and the businesses that arise from it, the state is home to 140 craft breweries, sixth-most in the nation. Grand Rapids, the state's second-largest city, was named Beer City USA 2013 by Examiner.com."