We live in a culture where water is something that happens when you turn a knob, light is something that happens when you flip a switch, and food is something that happens when you open a can.
Anything that lifts the veil to constantly remind us what’s going on behind the drywall or the storefronts is considered unsightly, even vulgar.
For instance, where does food come from? The answer is not “the store”. Sorry.
Food comes from soil, from farms. Farms can be beautiful places if managed correctly, and orchards are perhaps the most beautiful parts of a farm.
So why on earth people think the fruit orchard in Palmer Park will be unsightly or attract rodents is beyond me.
Yesterday the Detroit City Council heard complaints from some residents in Palmer Park who opposed a 500 tree fruit orchard because they don’t want to live near a farm. How dare anyone live near where food is being produced, right?
An excerpt from a Detroit News report:
“All this vacant land in Detroit, and they want to put it in our neighborhood,” said Eric Sabree, deputy Wayne County treasurer for Land Management, who lives on Pontchartrain and lodged some of the complaints. “We didn’t move here to be next to a farm.”
OK. I do understand the social stigma on farming. It’s dirty, it’s for poor people to do, it’s to be hidden and sanitized. Farms are light blight. That’s the broader cultural mindset. But people have to understand that there is a lot of misinformation around food. Relationships between people and where food comes from have been severed. And removing one orchard is not about one orchard. It’s a piece to a larger movement in the city gearing to heal relationships between people and food and provide economical and healthy avenues in doing so.
Having been raised on a farm, I know how orchards can explode into spectacular shows of color when in bloom, how they provide shade and coolness on a hot day, and, best of all, the flowers turn into fruit that have more flavor than anything bought at a store.
And for the record, fruit trees don’t attract rodents. They just don’t. What does attract rodents is the overflowing trashcans and rubbish lining the street just a block away. This orchard will be managed properly, and clearing the dropped fruit is orchard maintenance 101.
Before we jump to conclusions about what it means to live near an orchard there should be some education around it. Talks, if you will. Which is why it’s best the City Council decided to let the Palmer Park neighbors come to an agreement.
But the larger picture to this is that food is being grown in Detroit. Metric tons. It is being eaten and sold at markets. All this is happening contrary to zoning codes and ordinances. This economic shift should be eflected in zoning and planning as it blooms into something larger than just one issue. It’s about people and our most fundemental need: food.