On Urban Farming and Colonialism in Detroit’s North End Neighborhood

The Oakland Avenue Farmers’ Market in Detroit’s North End is one of those small-but-mighty neighborhood markets that accomplishes a lot with a little.

Each Saturday, it offers fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods in a historically low-income and black neighborhood where such options aren’t readily available.

Just as important is its contribution to the neighborhood’s economy. Most of the profits generated since it launched in 2009 fund the adjacent Oakland Avenue Farm. That operation provides 13 full- and part-time time jobs that pay a living wage—also rare in the North End—in addition to teaching residents to grow and cook their own food. So supporting the Oakland Market is a small contribution to the neighborhood’s economy.

However it has competition from another farm, and the Oakland Market can’t beat its prices. That’s because the other farm—Michigan Urban Farming Initiative—is giving away free produce every Saturday. It’s run by Tyson Gersh, and, for obvious reasons, his decision to hand out produce when the Oakland Market sells food creates tension.

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