A big chunk of vacant and blighted land in Detroit is destined for a future in agriculture, and some city residents will receive training in farming.
Specialty crops sought by restaurant chefs will be grown on the land, RecoveryPark Farms manager Michelle Lutz said Monday. RecoveryPark Farms is the business arm of a nonprofit, RecoveryPark, which turns blighted areas into land that can be farmed.
Over five years, RecoveryPark will replace lots on Detroit's east side with dozens of massive greenhouses, hoop houses and hydroponic systems on about 60 acres of land. The fruits and vegetables will be sold to local restaurants, retailers and wholesalers, according to the city.
About 35 acres are city-owned and will be leased each year for $105 per acre to RecoveryPark by Detroit's Land Bank Authority.
RecoveryPark Farms will create jobs for military veterans, ex-convicts, recovering addicts and others who have trouble finding employment. About 128 jobs are expected to be created, with 60 percent going to Detroit residents.
"We are not just transforming property. We are going to transform lives," Mayor Mike Duggan said. "They are taking the hardest-to-employ folks in our community and putting them to work on land that had been long abandoned and forgotten."
The plan has to be approved by the City Council.
The vegetables grown by RecoveryPark Farms include edible flowers, heirloom varieties of tomatoes, purple beans and Swiss Chard, according to its website.
"Commercial agriculture in Detroit is an important addition to Detroit's expanding business portfolio," RecoveryPark Chief Executive Gary Wozniak said. "Mayor Duggan's economic development team has moved boldly and swiftly to align city resources with our company's expansion needs."
The company is seeking funding for the $15 million project.
Other agricultural projects in the city are getting help from the federal government.
Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men will receive $4,000 from the Agriculture Department to expand student efforts to grow produce in a school garden that can be used in the cafeteria year-round. Students also use their garden to help learn how to market and sell produce at local farmers markets.
The funding was announced Monday by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
She also highlighted $100,000 in federal funding for The Greening of Detroit which will partner with the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network to help train young adults in Wayne County interested in farming and entering Detroit's farm-to-fork restaurant scene.