Fundraiser to help black farmers buy land in Detroit shatters expectations

In Detroit neighborhoods, urban farms are a huge part of accessibility to fresh food.

“We don’t have grocery stores - quality grocery stores - in our neighborhoods. The local farmer is very much so in demand,” said Jerry Herbon. 

Jerry began the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm over a decade ago near I-75 and Oakland. It expands over six acres in the North End of Detroit.

 “These farms do a lot more than just grow food - they actually grow communities,” she said.

But Jerry says city farmers are often displaced. Property owners sometimes think there’s a better use for the land.

“Because of development, or because the owners came back and said I’m not renewing this lease, I’ve got other plans,” she said.

And starting over growing food from the ground is incredibly difficult. She says black farmers especially have historically had a tougher time keeping land.

“There are a lot of reasons that black farmers are losing their land and they don’t have the access to capital to save these properties,” she said. 

So in a partnership between the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, Keep Growing Detroit, and Detroit Black Community Food Security -- they started the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund. The money helps black growers buy the land they’re already farming on -- or buy land to start farming.

“We launched June 19 and people said yeah it’s about time - we want equity and land ownership too,” Jerry said.

The original goal was raising $5,000. As of Saturday, they have surpassed $50,000.

“It was like oh my God, people are really understanding how important this is,” she said.

Jerry says they've had talks with other organizations that may match the fund. Farmers who can show they know what they’re doing and are excited to do it can begin applying next week.

“We want to be able to show that instead of a land loss - we have a land gain. We have synergy. These are the people who are growing your food and this is where they are,” she said.

Click here if you’d like to contribute to the fund.