Back to the Future


IMG_0269 Principal Asenath Andrews in front of the Catherine Ferguson Academy's barn

A few years ago, I got to write a piece for O, The Oprah Magazine about the urban farming movement in the completely fascinating city of Detroit. 

Detroit is one of the world's most extreme examples of a shrinking city.  The population is less than half what it was in its heyday.  Detroit's problems have been so severe and long-lasting, including arson and abandonment, that tearing down houses has long been one of the government's most important jobs.  One-third of the land within city limits is now vacant, and there are stretches where the spacing between houses suggests rural North Dakota rather than a big industrial city.

Fortunately, enterprising people like Principal Asenath Andrews and the teachers at Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public school for teenaged mothers and their kids, are now farming some of that wasted land. Farming is an important part of the curriculum at Catherine Ferguson, and Principal Andrews is a visionary who sees a future in which some of these girls will make a living producing better food for the city in the city.

Now Dutch filmmakers Mascha and Manfred Poppenk have made a documentary about Catherine Ferguson called Grown in Detroit that will debut on PBS in Detroit September 22 from 9 to 10 pm.

The movie does a great job of showing how the experience of nature transforms the teenaged mothers at this amazing school. It also captures some of the strange, quiet romance of Detroit, where there seem to be more bicycles than cars because people are too poor to buy cars, where there are goats and haymaking in city neighborhoods, and lots of wonderful people stubbornly insisting that there is something very special and beautiful about any city–even the poorest city–that has the luxury of land for apples, peaches, and tomatoes.


  1. Big gov gives millions to car companies that keep us being thier slaves. Ford’s TV ads still selling 15 MPH vehicals.
    Car’s are dead.
    Unless they can fly.

  2. No war of words from the TROLL today:

    Ranters please join me in offering condolences to the families of three of my co-workers killed in an automobile accident on Sunday Sept. 13th. My flower shop manager, her 40 year old daughter and the manager’s mother were riding in the same car when the accident occurred. In a strange twist of fate the car that they collided with was driven by a cousin of a co-worker from our Kingston, NY location.
    They leave behind grieving friends, co-workers, grand and great grandchildren, husbands, and brothers sisters and children.

    The TROLL

  3. My condolences Greg I am very sorry to hear of your loss my heart goes out to their families. May the lord help them find peace.

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