Urban Farming and Re-purposed Space: Grist’s Interview With Edith Floyd

Edith Floyd. From Grist magazine.

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A few weeks ago I came across this interview in Grist magazine with Edith Floyd, a woman working to create an urban farm in Detroit.   In a time when so many of us are searching for examples of alternate economies, grassroots action, and experimental solutions for complex problems, it’s inspiring (and practical) to read about people like Floyd.

According to the article, when she came to the neighborhood it was thriving, but over the years the city bought up much of the land to enlarge the airport.  But funding ran out and the airport expansion never occurred, and in the process the population of the neighborhood dwindled.  Today Floyd is using these empty lots to create the Growing Joy Community Garden.  Here’s a bit of back story from the interview:

There was a greenhouse with lots of flowers and plants, and a welding shop. We got along real well on this street until Devil’s Night started. Then they started lighting fires. We would stay up just about all night watching for fires, cause the houses were so close together, and the next day we would sleep. Mostly the teenagers would start fires. We had a nice big garage that you could drive your car into, with an apartment upstairs. They burned that down, and the one next door. Then people started moving out, and I didn’t blame them.

Then the [General Motors] Hamtramck plant closed and the rest of the people moved out because they lost their houses. They would pay somebody to burn it down to get insurance money, and they’d take the money and go. My husband got laid off for about a year, but they called him back. After that people just started moving out one by one until just about everyone was gone. All the younger people are gone, one or two older people are still here. Me and the girl next door and the people down the street are about my age, some are a little older. The rest are gone. I’m not gonna try and run with the rest of them, I just want to plant some food. Every time a house comes down I try to dig it out and plant some food, so that’s how I started. 

When I first came over here I had a garden in the backyard, and when people started moving out, I started one lot, then moved on to the next lot, and I kept at it. Three years ago I started the lot where the greenhouse is. It still has a lot of rocks, and I’m still trying to get the dirt better. I’m trying to get more leaves and grass so I can make a big compost pile. 

I found out that tomatoes will grow anywhere. I don’t care what kind of dirt you put tomatoes in, they will grow. String beans and okra will grow anywhere, and lima beans and peas, but they are slow-growing. 

There’s a lot more to the interview including information about her background in farming and her plans for the future of the garden. Be sure and read the entire piece at Grist by clicking here.

From Grist.

Regardless of where we live, all of us are aware of vacant lots that could be put to good use. We probably drive past them on a weekly basis, maybe even dreaming of ways to reuse the space.  What examples have you seen of ways to re-purpose space?  What’s working and why?  What are some of your own ideas about effective ways to re-purpose land?  We’d love to hear about it and possibly include the information here. Thanks for reading. Remember you can keep up with us via facebook and Twitter.


  1. paula says:

    Great article, Meredith! I am going to have to go find it in it’s entirety…I want to know what she is doing with the food, if the neighbors are participating and what the city government has to say about it.

  2. paula says:

    I love the term agtivist! You GO Ms Floyd!!

  3. meredith says:

    Isn’t that a great term? The whole article is linked within the text to the blog entry, but here it is again:

    Let me know what you find out. Would love to have you post it here if you want!