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The Oakland Avenue Urban Farm is creating an “Agri-Cultural” landscape in the North End

Including a hostel, dining hall, and gallery

The Oakland Avenue Urban Farm Team, in front of the Farm’s Community House in Detroit’s North End

More agriculture-centered redevelopment is coming to the North End, with a focus on the culture. The Oakland Avenue Urban Farm has snagged a $500,000 grant from ArtPlace America, as one of 29 creative placemaking grants across the country, and only one of three to receive funding for $500,000 or more.

Oakland Avenue Urban Farm

The largest urban farm in Detroit’s North End will transform into a five-acre landscape combining art, architecture, sustainable ecologies, and new market practices while exploring methods for equitable, art-centered redevelopment.

The land is located along Oakland, Goodwin, and Cameron between Westminster and Owen Streets in the North End.

The Agri-Cultural landscape is an effort between the farm, Detroit-based architecture and design studio, Akoaki; cultural programmer ONE Mile Project; the City of Detroit City Planning Commission; and the Center for Community Based Enterprise.

Within this two-year project, these groups will:

  • Explore ways to reactivate existing architectures with innovative locally rooted programming,
  • Take the site off-grid by creating artful and functional infrastructures,
  • Foster worker-owned businesses as economic drivers, and
  • Integrate the arts into the fabric of community life.

The plans include:

  • Transforming a vacant residence into a convivial community dining hall and hostel accommodating visiting artists, agriculture specialists, and chefs.
  • Creating the Art Farm House—an exhibition space and mini art school for children and adults set in a neo-rural landscape—and an irrigation infrastructure that will serves as an “urban marker” and other energy-efficient systems.
  • Launching of the North End Superette, a farm-fresh convenience store and retail space for the farm’s value-added products.
  • Hosting a series of culinary happenings and developing arts programming in conversation with residents by providing neighbors with space for creative experimentation.

“The Oakland Avenue Urban Farm is a place where we’re not only growing food, but we’re cultivating youth, art and music,” says Jerry Hebron, the Farm’s Executive Director. “We host many performances where diverse groups of people come together; we offer a range of workshops and activities. All of this is about cultivating community. The Farm has become about so much more than fruits and vegetables.”

Oakland Avenue Urban Farm founders, Billy and Jerry Hebron.
Oakland Avenue Urban Farm

The North End, a predominantly African American neighborhood which once was a cultural nexus that drew innovative artists from across the country, has continued to survive - despite challenges - through the work of many grass-roots initiatives and neighborhood programs.

Recently, the nearby Michigan Urban Farming Initiative announced their plans for an “agrihood,” and redeveloping properties around their farm. The North End is becoming a premiere location for creative land use and agriculture in the country.