Finding Detroit’s Urban Farms and Community Gardens
Take a self-guided tour of some of metro Detroit’s fabulous food sites
Published: October 2, 2013
Market at the Marquee 15145 Beech Daly Rd., Redford; 313-387-2504; email@example.com; redfordtwp.com: The Market at the Marquee in Redford is full of pleasant surprises. It runs 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays. With a little more than a dozen kiosks, it’s relatively intimate, with palpable camaraderie between the vendors. Shoppers can find locally made honey, lemonade and cider (served hot and cold), but the main attraction is the fresh produce. On a recent visit, one long table was weighed down heavily with produce, which is fresh and reasonably priced. Other vendors sold flowers, potted or cut. At a table representing a co-op of small local growers, it was obvious they believed in their product and their pride was refreshing. More than one heavily laden customer commented, “I only came for one or two items.” This place is a nice little excursion on a summer afternoon. — Larry Lehna
North Cass Community Garden West Willis Street at Second Avenue, Detroit; 313-420-6000; midtowndetroitinc.org: This garden has been active for five seasons, having begun as an kind of outreach to the neighborhood to see if anyone wanted a small garden. It resulted in a community effort to build structures and plant an array of unusual greenery, from berries and purple cabbage to liatris (a lavender-looking flower) and marigolds. People living in the community can rent plots for a year. Gardeners are responsible for maintaining their plots, but utilities and water are provided. In essence, the multitude of colors, shapes and sizes of the diverse plants comes from the heart of the community, as gardeners choose and plant whatever they want. As the winter season approaches, around Nov. 10, North Cass closes down. Experienced gardeners, however, can choose to continue their plot using their own utilities and water. The garden’s special project manager, Annmarie Borucki, has been an active member of this community garden from the beginning, and says: “North Cass provides gardens for people who live in apartments. It gives them access to some real green space.” — YB
Rising Pheasant Farms Frederick Street just east of Moran Street, Detroit; firstname.lastname@example.org; risingpheasantfarms.blogspot.com: Rising Pheasant Farms was founded in 2009 as a family-owned and -operated farm on the Detroit’s east side. Specializing in microgreens for local farmers’ markets and restaurants, the farm has sold at Eastern Market since 2009, and started operating an on-site farm stand last year. The bicycle-based business moves all produce and supplies using pedal power. The produce itself is all-natural produce grown using only organic seeds. Rising Pheasant’s Carolyn Leadley has been working in urban agriculture since 2006, with such organizations as Greening of Detroit, Earthworks Urban Farm and Seed Wayne. At the time urban agriculture was dominated by non-profit projects, and Leadley was inspired to try out an actual farm business in the city to see if it would work.
This year, they marked five years in business, and they hope to have their greenhouse up and running by next year. Leadley and company ask that visitors or prospective volunteers email them to arrange a time and day to stop by the farm.
Ropteri’s Turkey Farm 34700 Five Mile Rd., Livonia; 734-464-6546: A field of turkeys is an unexpected sight while driving through the well-manicured neighborhoods of Livonia. Yet this local turkey farm has been here longer than most of its neighbors. It was established by Tom Roperti in 1948 when Livonia was still a township. Nearby businesses included sod farms and apple orchards. Nowadays, the field of white feathers presents an arresting sight for motorists driving down suburban Five Mile Road. It’s run by Tom’s daughter Christine, who continues to uphold the principles her father taught her. Their feed is all natural — corn, wheat, oats and water (and nothing else, no preservatives) — and these are true free-range birds, with a full five acres at their disposal. “I do it the same way my father did, no short-cuts,” Christine says. She urges people to try her turkeys just once, as she believes that most individuals have never tasted a real turkey. Her list of regular clients increases every year. They sell turkeys Oct. 1-Dec. 31, though their busiest period is during the four days preceding the holiday. Call a day ahead and your turkey will be ready. Christine admits her birds are higher-priced than the frozen turkeys in grocery stores, but she says that once you taste a Roperti turkey, the quality and taste will win your loyalty. — LL
Tuthill Farms & Composting 10505 Tuthill Rd., South Lyon; 734-449-8100: Tuthill Farms is another jewel in the local “growing scene.” The farm is also the family home of the seventh generation of Tuthills. Established in 1864, it has produced crops, dairy products, hogs, chickens, eggs and beef over the years, though today they focus on naturally raised eggs and goats’ milk, along with the composting. They even board horses and have free-range chickens walking around. Catering to many landscaping companies, private homeowners, they are a key supplier of compost to the Greening of Detroit program.
As the area where they are located became more developed, Tuthill looked for alternatives to traditional farming. Composting was a perfect fit: The operation only takes up 16 of the farm’s 180 acres. The beauty of it is that they are paid to receive the materials, and, after the composting process, they sell the finished product. They don’t use any chemical fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides or fungicides. They have a formula for mixing the compost, using three parts leaves and woodchips to one part grass and manure. They closely monitor their product for odor. (That was a huge concern of the neighbors.) If done properly, the process produces little or no odor. It’s a very well-run operation. It is also quite environmentally prudent. They actually use more of the compost than they sell, utilizing it as a nutrient source for the crops they raise to support the boarded horses. The farm is used to visitors, and open 7 a.m.-5 p.m. — LL
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