Detroit Urban Farming

Emus defending against stray dogs, fish grown in greenhouses, bees that “don’t discriminate” and mushrooms growing in a spare bedroom — Detroit’s urban farms are anything but normal.

Detroit urban farming

Susan Y Kim, of Royal Oak, picks weeds out from the rows of tomatoes growing at one of the largest urban farms in Detroit, Food Field, on Friday afternoon, July 15, 2016. Kim, a Cranbrook art student with the summer off, decided to volunteer at Food Field to better understand where her food comes from and how its grown. “It feels good to have so many people interested in what we’re doing here,” said Food Field founder Noah Link.

Emus defending against stray dogs, fish grown in greenhouses, bees that “don’t discriminate” and mushrooms growing in a spare bedroom — Detroit’s urban farms are anything but normal.

Detroit urban farming

Noah Link, founder of Food Field, nets two bluegill fish from the 7,000-gallon aquaponics system inside one of his farm’s greenhouses in Detroit on July 15, 2016. The fish swim in a 4-foot-deep tank, and above them sits a 500-square-foot growing space for vegetables and seedlings that live off the fish waste, in turn purifying the water below. A combination of hot summer weather and a problem with the oxygen levels killed of most of his catfish, which he hoped would hit the market in the fall. We’re going to have to modify the setup a little bit and figure it out,” said Link.

Detroit urban farming

(center) Green Toe Gardens co-founder Joan Mandell shows Tom Fisher, 59 of Royal Oak, and Anna Moceri, 39 of Oakland Township, a frame covered in honeycomb during a hands-on beekeeping class of first year students hosted by Green Toe Gardens at urban farm and apiary Food Field in Detroit on Tuesday evening, Aug. 16, 2016. “Bees fly two miles to find nectar. They don’t discriminate whether it’s from the city or the suburbs. We feel like we’re doing the same thing,” said Mandell. Joan and her husband Rich Mandell have been educating others for nearly ten years on the intricacies of beekeeping and the impact bees have to the ecosystem.

Detroit urban farming

An Oyster mushroom grows in a humidity-controlled room room built in the basement of Deana Wojcik, 30, and Chris Carrier’s, 33, Detroit home, June 17, 2016. Wojcik and Carrier started Detroit Mushroom Factory nearly 2 years ago and now grow seven different types edible fungi out of their house. The couple currently sells their mushrooms in small batches at Eastern Market and to local Detroit restaurants. “It’s not super-saturated, but there’s a lot of customers and a lot of restaurants and markets,” Carrier said. “And we already knew about mushrooms and we saw there wasn’t anyone doing mushrooms on a big scale here yet.”

Detroit urban farming

Tom Fisher, 59 of Royal Oak, slowly pulls out a honeycomb frame covered in bees during a hands-on beekeeping class with Green Toe Gardens, Tuesday evening at urban farm and apiary Food Field in Detroit, Aug. 16, 2016. “Bees are an indication of what’s going on in the environment,” said Joan Mandell, co-founder of Green Toe Gardens. “What’s so different about (beekeeping in) Detroit is that there is so much land, you can spread out hives on the ground. When compared to Chicago and Brooklyn, you have to keep hives on rooftops.” Green Toe Gardens cares for about 100 bee hives located in 20 different locations around the city of Detroit and in the suburbs.

Detroit urban farming

Solar panels in a chicken coop power a 7,000-gallon aquaponics system which raises about 400 bluegill and catfish inside a 4-foot-deep tank at Food Field in Detroit, July 15, 2016. The fish swim in a 4-foot-deep tank, and above them sits a 500-square-foot growing space for vegetables and seedlings that live off the fish waste, in turn purifying the water below. The water pump is powered from the solar panels. The farm also keeps 73 chickens, two emus and two peacocks.

Detroit urban farming

Deana Wojcik, 30, picks mushrooms from the growing room built in her basement, which is controlled for humidity Friday, June 17, 2016. Wojcik and her boyfriend Chris Carrier, 33, started Detroit Mushroom Factory nearly 2 years ago. “So many people were starting businesses, so we thought ‘We’re here. We should do what Detroiters do.’ We had some other ideas, but there’s so much agriculture happening here,” said Carrier.

Detroit urban farming

Fresh greens dry in a makeshift prep station at the 4-acre Food Field, located between Detroit’s stately Boston Edison and blighted Dexter-Linwood neighborhoods July 15, 2016. “I had gotten into organic farming after college,” said Laingsburg, Mich. native Noah Link who founded the farm in 2011 “… I was at a point trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, and got inspired by some of the stuff already happening in Detroit.” Food Field produces a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs to sell at farmer’s markets, to local chefs and through the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) system.