Vision -- Urban Roots: Detroit's Industrial Collapse Gives Birth to Flourishing City Gardening Movement

The collapse of industrial cities continues: Detroit, once ranked the 11th largest city in the United States, has seen it’s population decrease from 2.2 million to just over 700,000 according to the 2010 census. This Earth month, Tree Media, the creators of The 11th Hour, are releasing Urban Roots, a film that highlights the hopeful emergence of urban farms in Detroit, as a struggling city finds a new voice, and asks the question, when everything collapses, what happens next?

Urban Roots is the latest documentary from Leila Conners, Mathew Schmid, and director and Detroit-native, Mark MacInnis. Urban Roots centers on the rise of urban farms in Detroit where people are taking matters into their own hands. Citizens are working together to create self-reliant communities based on organic food and have transformed many abandoned lots into community gardens and farms. The people of Detroit are taking back Detroit: one garden, one farm at a time.

The driving force behind the American dream has changed; Detroit, a bell-weather for other cities once dominated by industrial strength, large corporations, now finds itself perhaps emerging anew based on small, independent, entrepreneurial farms, like Brother Nature Farms, Earthworks Garden, Feedom Freedom, and D-Town Farms, all located in the heart of Detroit. A large part of the film discusses food issues such as making fresh food available to people now living in what has been termed a “food desert.” Most of the farms also sell their crops at weekly farmer’s markets such as Eastern Market and one business, FOOD (Field Of Our Dreams), even distributes fresh food to surrounding neighborhoods via their “mobile market.”

The human spirit, and soulful vitality of Detroit’s diverse citizenry shines in this film. “People from all walks of life coming together to find a common cause, common principles and create community is the only constructive antidote to what is presently our centralized, big business economy,” says Schmid.  Urban Roots, “shows another option besides collapse, instead, when people take responsibility for themselves, and when the framework allows them to create community, that’s when change happens,” says Conners.

As MacInnis says: “It took men like Henry Ford, William Durant, and Lee Iacocca to build this city, but it’s taken a bunch of strong willed self-taught urban farmers to save it.” Perhaps the new global dream is a field of dreams.

Urban Roots can be seen in 70 cities across the nation in Whole Foods “Do Something Reel” Film Festival or purchased on Everyone is invited to lend a hand, plant a seed, and change the world.

Urban Roots Trailer from Tree Media on Vimeo.


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