Posts Tagged ‘urban farms’

Detroit bike culture meets agriculture

Friday, October 7th, 2011

This posting is just a quick shout out to Rising Pheasant Farms which uses big bicycle trailers to transport their produce to Eastern Market. This isn’t too surprising given the Jack Van Dyke from the Hub is involved.

Here’s an excerpt from the Makezine blog with our emphasis added.

Leadley and Van Dyke live a few doors down the block from Weertz. Standing in front of their rows of lush tomato plants, the couple present a quirky version of American Gothic: Leadley has a pierced nose and Van Dyke wears a cycling cap and has their 10-month old son Finn in a back carrier. The cherubic toddler keeps whacking his mom as I ask the family to pose for a photo. While Van Dyke is at work fixing bicycles at Detroit’s non-profit bike repair shop The Hub, Leadley farms three city lots — about a sixth of an acre. In addition to cherry tomatoes, she grows ornamental flowers, which are a good cash crop. Leadley calls her business Rising Pheasant Farms because, apparently, pheasants are thriving in Detroit’s growing greenery. Rising Pheasant also has an indoor division: sunflower shoots are grown under lights in the attic of the house they’re renting. Their produce is sold at Detroit’s huge farmers’ market and to local restaurants. The couple doesn’t own a motor vehicle and is proud that they do deliveries by bikes that pull six-foot long trailers. As Leadley put it, “Human-powered transportation is part of our business plan.” Van Dyke is in the process of making a suspension system for the trailers using discarded bike inner tubes so tomatoes are cushioned on their way to market. Leadley marvels at the plight of some at the farmers’ market, who get in their trucks at 1:00 a.m. to drive across the state to Eastern Market, one of the largest farmers’ market in the country. Rising Pheasant has a mile and a half bike ride.

Not only is the market close to the farm, the route is pretty darn flat — another benefit to biking in Detroit, especially while pulling six-foot trailers with produce.

Detroit Agriculture Network Tour of Urban Gardens and Farms

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

This Wednesday, August 4th is the 13th Annual Detroit Agriculture Network Tour of Urban Gardens and Farms. You must register in advance! Last year’s rides sold out.

The tour will feature five routes, including bus tours to eastside, westside, and central city gardens and two bicycle routes weaving through downtown gardens. All tours will leave from Catherine Ferguson Academy, located at 2750 Selden in Detroit. Sign-in begins at 5:00pm and tours will leave at 6:00pm sharp. After the tour, a reception featuring locally-grown food prepared by local restaurants and chefs will provide visitors with a delicious taste of Detroit! Registration begins July 6th and early registration is strongly recommended. You can register by contacting Ashley Atkinson 313-237-8736 or When registering, please give the name of every person attending the tour and specify which tour, bus (east, west, or central) or bike tour you prefer. The fee for the tours is a sliding scale of $1 – $20 to offset costs and help grow Detroit’s agricultural movement.

This is one of the most excellent bike tours you can do in the city of Detroit. It supports a great cause and the post-ride meal focused on Detroit-grown produce is the best.

Growing together: Detroit bike culture and urban ag

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Detroit Chicken Races T-Shirt

The city of Detroit’s urban ag and bike culture are growing together and no where was that more evident than at last Sunday’s chicken races.

Yep, the first ever Detroit chicken races were at the Temple Bar in the Cass Corridor. Only Detroit-based hens could compete. Seventeen showed up.

Miss Chicken arrived in style aboard a BOB trailer. In speaking with the owner, the bike travel didn’t really seem to faze her.

Many of the 200 fans arrived by bicycle as well.

Team Cluckstrong, a nod to Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong, also competed. The Team had Cluckstrong T-shirts and wrist bands. Their bird raced with a Cluckstrong leg band.

Even the official T-shirts made by the Trumbleplex touted a fixie chicken.

Photos from the event are on-line.

Urban Agriculture Bike Tours

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Welcome to Detroit's Corktown neighborhood just outside of downtownYou may already know that Detroit is a leader in urban agriculture. This week you have the opportunity to witness it firsthand.

Wednesday evening, August 5th, is the 12th Annual Detroit Agriculture Network Tour of Urban Gardens and Farms.

From the press release:

This year’s tour will highlight a selection of prosperous, innovative, and visually stunning gardens and farms that are contributing to the new food system through bio‐intensive urban agriculture and commerce between local restaurants and farmer’s markets. The Garden Resource Program Collaborative (GRPC) works to support the emergence of a new, sustainable food system in Detroit through a network of more than 517 backyard gardens, 244 community gardens, and 46 school gardens. The GRPC facilitates resources, education, and training of urban gardeners, farmers, and community leaders through a variety of programming.

The bicycle tour will “weave through gardens located in the Cass Corridor, Woodbridge, and Greater Corktown.” At the end of the tour will be locally-grown food and refreshments created by local chefs!

There is also a bus tour option, but it is full as of today.

All tours start at the Catherine Ferguson Academy (2750 Selden in Detroit.) Sign in begins at 5pm and the tour starts sharply at 6pm.

There are still a few open spots on the bike tour.

Register ahead of time by contacting Ashley Atkinson at 313‐237‐8736 or via email at The tour fee is a sliding scale from $1 to $20 which offsets costs and helps “grow Detroit’s agricultural movement.”

And for those that can’t make it August 5th, there is a Garden Bike Tour on August 15th just south of the border. It’s part of Windsor’s 2nd Annual Summer Harvest Festival. (via Bike Windsor)

Reshaping Detroit: Villages and Greenways

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

“This continent has not seen a transformation like Detroit’s since the last days of the Maya. The city, once the fourth largest in the country, is now so depopulated that some stretches resemble the outlying farmland and others are altogether wild.”

— From “Detroit Arcadia“, Harper’s Magazine, 2007

urban-village-299x224At nearly 140 square miles, Detroit is a very large city.

The problem is it no longer has enough residents or businesses providing a tax base to support this size. About 40 square miles are abandoned or vacant.

Yesterday’s Free Press featured an article “Urban villages in Detroit’s future?” about recent efforts to make this situation work.

In a new vision of Detroit’s future, a team of visiting urban planners suggests the city might one day resemble the English countryside, with distinct urban villages surrounded by farms, fields and meadows.

The idea may sound improbable, but Alan Mallach, a New Jersey-based planner who led the visiting team, said Detroit is evolving in that direction anyway, with large chunks of the city now largely abandoned.

“In a way, think of it as a 21st-Century version of a traditional country pattern,” Mallach said. “You have high-density development on one side of the street and cows on the other, quite literally.”

Having participated in these conversations over the past year, this certainly seems like the most realistic strategy for Detroit.

So how does it affect biking?

First, having good walkability and bikeability within these urban villages is a key design feature. And since Detroit has “good bones” (i.e. uses the American street grid), we’re mostly there.

Second, the planned connections between the villages and in the lower density greenspaces are great places for building greenways and bike lanes, as noted in the Free Press article.

Preserving Non-Motorized Mobility

Detroit Free PressOne question with creating these larger greenspaces is how do we preserve the street grids and maintain bikability? Creating superblocks disrupts direct routes for cyclists and pedestrians, while concentrating vehicle traffic around their perimeters.

For example, there is a recent proposal for an urban farm made up of 10 square city blocks. How do we handle the public right-of-ways across that property (which could interfer with the farming operations)?

In speaking with Allan Mallach, he really didn’t have any specific ideas yet. And, what he is proposing (and what Detroit is experiencing) truly is unique at this scale, so we’ll need to work out some issues as we progress.

I also raised this question with Ian Lockwood, a renowned senior transportation planner with Glatting Jackson. One thought he had was to maintain the street grid, but return the roads to gravel in order to reduce the infrastructure and make them permeable (for reduced storm water management.)

The Future of Detroit Biking

Detroit will undoubtedly continue its transformation whether its planned or not. It’s already transformed in ways that make it far more bike friendly, especially compared with the surround suburban areas and with other American cities.

And with some perseverance (and funding!), we’ll continue planning this transformation to make us even more bike friendly.