Non-profit landscape architecture group to launch market garden in Penrose district this spring

The Penrose neighborhood of Detroit is expected to see another development as part of the Penrose Market Garden project, which has been going on for years. With the help of a 2015 grant from Kresge Innovation Projects: Detroit, the nonprofit group of landscape architects GrowTown and the Arab-American and Chaldean Council will complete the construction and subsequent planting of a vegetable garden and the setting up in place of a nutrition program this spring.

The Penrose Market Garden project is a multi-tiered one that will function as a functional urban farm while also serving to provide project managers with key information on sustainable urban farming practices in the city of Detroit. Beth Hagenbuch, co-founder of GrowTown, says that for any kind of urban farm or garden project to be successful, it must be designed to be site specific. Cookie-cutter farming just wouldn’t work.

“The idea for the site-specific concept comes from our background in landscape architecture,” Hagenbuch explains. “The landscapes can seem almost invisible to some. Every time we go out we can forget how much the environment affects us. But the landscapes affect our body, our heart, our blood pressure, our mental health and much more. “

Hagenbuch, who designed the award-winning Lafayette Greens Garden in downtown Detroit, and his partner Ken Weikal discuss how the Penrose neighborhood is characterized by a sea of ​​land measuring 30ft by 100ft, offering a range of opportunities and different challenges than the downtown garden. For example, it was difficult to get adjacent lots from different owners. Spread out the different parts of the farm too much and it might not work.

Once the market is up and running, Weikal says the team will analyze the data to determine the measures needed for an urban farmer’s self-sufficiency. They are looking to determine how much space and how many crops are needed for an urban farm to be economically viable once the grant money is gone.

In addition to the vegetable and nutritional programming this spring, the team plans to use apartments above the art and the farmhouse to house producers on site. A community space will host art classes, barbecues, community meetings and other events.

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Terri S. Tomasini