College of Law Faculty Scholarship

Source Publication (e.g., journal title)

University of Detroit Mercy Law Review

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2014


Detroit has become a leader in the urban agriculture movement, so it is an honor to contribute to the symposium that the University of Detroit Mercy Law Review organized on the subject. As both an academic and a citizen, I have followed the expansion of the city's urban food initiatives with both awe and envy. Detroit's residents, both individuals and corporations, are transforming both the physical and cognitive environment of the city.For example, one source estimates that the city has between 1500 and 2000 gardens, some of which are tended by homeowners in their backyards, and some of which have been developed or supported by local business, including the Cadillac Urban Gardens created by General Motors with 250 re-purposed shipping crates. A local newspaper's website even posted a guide to Detroit's community gardens and urban farms that ran to multiple pages. Numerous organizations and coalitions in the area exist to promote sustainable local agriculture, including Keep Growing Detroit, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, the Urban Agriculture Department of The Greening of Detroit, and the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative. Public-private coalitions such as FoodPLUS/Detroit also are forming to leverage talent and resources in support of the movement. Detroit's vibrant food scene is a model for the expanding number of communities in the U.S. seeking to improve food access and justice, to reduce carbon footprints, and to improve other measures of sustainability.My city, Knoxville, Tennessee, is one of those communities. In 2012, Knoxville was one of the top 20 finalists in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, a program that offers substantial financial awards for innovative local solutions to national problems. Knoxville's proposal called for the creation of an “urban food corridor” in the city to stimulate “a culture of healthy eating and eliminate food deserts by stimulating connections in the urban food cycle between land, farming jobs, food processing, distribution, sale, and composting.” The proposal was ambitious and sought to mobilize other urban areas that are attempting to organize their own urban agriculture and food systems. Knoxville envisioned the creation of a scalable, self-sustaining, “urban land-to-market” food corridor to improve not only food security and health measures in the community, but also to stimulate economic activity in areas of chronic disinvestment.This article will briefly review the details of Knoxville's innovative proposal and describe the concept of a food corridor. It also will provide an overview of the challenges that the city encountered, and is still confronting, as it pursues its food corridor vision. Finally, it will consider the path forward for Knoxville and other U.S. cities participating in the “quiet revolution” of urban agriculture.

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