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Organizers Create Fund to Help Detroit’s Black Farmers Purchase Land in the City

Detroit’s black growers face more barriers than their white peers in acquiring the property they farm, but a new project seeks to change that

A hand holds out an egg.
An egg from Georgia Street Community Collective in Detroit.
Gerard + Belevender

On Friday, June 19, in honor of Juneteenth, a coalition of local food activists established a new fund to help black growers purchase land in Detroit. The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in the North End, and Keep Growing Detroit developed the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund, which will help foster more land ownership among black farmers in the city who face greater barriers in purchasing property.

Jerry Hebron, a director for Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, described her farm’s challenges with acquiring the property they grow on in a Facebook live post. “We had a lot of issues with the acquisition process, particularly because we started out on a commercial district and the city of Detroit — although our work was very good — felt like there may be a higher and better use for the land,” she said. “So it took us about 15 years to make the first acquisition.” Since 2015, Hebron says that the farm has been successful in acquiring land by working with the city, but she is aware of other black farmers who have not had as much success.

In partnership with DBCFSN, OAUF and KGD we started the Black Farmers Land Fund to support Black Growers who have difficulties acquiring land due to funding. Please Support our efforts to build a more sustainable community. Go to https://gf.me/u/x9y3q5 to donate. #BlackFarmersLandFund #DBCFSN #OAUF #KGD

Posted by Oakland Avenue Urban Farm on Saturday, June 20, 2020

Many people in the community lack the capital to compete with developers who have increasingly bought up large swaths of property in the city limits. “For several years I’ve found that it’s just easier for white growers to purchase land. It’s easier for them to navigate the system. And I find that it’s really an uneven playing field,” Tepfirah Rushdan, director of Keep Growing Detroit, said in an announcement shared to Youtube. “We all know that things are changing in the city. Development is happening at a quicker pace, and I’m worried that people who are growing on their land and they don’t own it, that they’re going to start to get displaced.”

Applications will be released in July for the funding and will be evaluated through a blind review process using an established rubric. The group plans to announce the winners in September. The project has already received nearly $16,000 since Friday on Gofundme. Donations can be made to the site or via CashApp to $detroitblackfarmer.

The need for more secure agriculture in the city has become even more evident since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has sent shockwaves through the food system and disrupted the supply chain. At the same time, the nation is experiencing an uprising sparked by anger over the killing of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, and other black people.

Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund [Gofundme]
A Guide to Southeast Michigan Farms and Markets Selling Produce, Plant Starts, and More [ED]
How Detroit’s Urban Farming Community Is Coping With Coronavirus Restaurant Closures [ED]
Detroit’s Farmers Are Losing Patience With the City’s Outdated Livestock Laws [ED]

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