Hey there Mrs. Brother Nature Produce here opening up the conversation about Detroit etikick, and its etikick and not etiquette because well, Detroit is anything but proper or conventional. In order to get along here, if you don’t already know, you are gonna have to do things 'modern standards' might not agree with. Let me give you an example; we’ll start with something simple and work up to the complicated subjects later.
Etikick at the Eastern Market
What do you think would make the Eastern Market better?
My wife Olivia has always said, "there is enough space in Detroit for everyone to have most of what they want if only the city were planned accordingly." New places are opening and the landscape is changing so much, its easy to look at these bright new bars and restaurants as a measure of progress. But economic progress is more than stadiums and skyscrapers.
I remember Chung's on Cass and Peterboro, back in the late 80's was one of the only places around the Wayne State area to get something beyond fast food to eat at night. Now there are so many choices and to be honest, I sell our salad mix to many of these new places, so I see better options and obviously want to support them.
Some of these better options do things like purchasing locally grown veg. from Detroit growers and have exciting menus, like La Rondinella. David Mancini combined Detroit's locally grown produce with Italian dishes you won't see in a cookbook, closed now, but Supinos has this sort of creativity on pizza. I see places like Craftwork and Mudgie's who are as creative as they are local, tasty and healthier because they are made by hand. And others like Brooklyn Street Local and Astro Coffee, where you look at their wall and see a list of all of the farms and businesses who supply them. They live and work in Detroit and care about the farms and businesses around them. You might be able to say there are two types of places to eat in Detroit. Some are for Detroiters and everyone else, while others are just for suburbanites who want to see a game, eat, drink and not wander to far from the Gilbert / Illitch entertainment bubble.
Some places are getting it right but I also see places coming up short. Its Detroit in 2017 and you only have one or two African Americans working in the back washing dishes. I see places using the words "local," but the only thing local is its location; all the ingredients come from Sysco, EDS or Gordon Foods. And can we have more casual eateries something besides the coney islands or pricey small plates suburban enclaves? Coming from a family of chefs, I know better. You can tell when pies are machine produced, when soups, cookies and other baked goods are made from the vat mixes that come in buckets from corporations and not from local farms. Even Donna Love from Love Pies (who is legally blind) will complain how some of their pie competition is all factory made and lacks flavor. Also, after decades in Detroit, I know that a place that hires a diverse staff has a more diverse clientele. They have better atmosphere and are less likely to see crime inside and out in the parking lot. The diversity of staff, locally grown product and unique menus are all things that improve a bottom line.
In Corktown there are examples of people that run their food businesses with cooperation in mind. I thought it strange that Even Phil Cooley (who my radical friends swear is an arch-demon of gentrification) showed up at my farm years ago with Charles (former owner of Let Petit Zinc). He was helping him with supply logistics and even assisted him with permitting to get his place legal and open. After that, I don't see competition in the same way I used to. By supporting this ecosystem of local food businesses, many are supporting long term neighborhood development. Since our city focuses so much on downtown, small businesses have more of an opportunity / responsibility to create long lasting change in their own backyards. Plus with Trump, Snyder and their appointees, some of the worst people ever to hold positions of power, now in control, our dollars might be the only lever of power we have left.
-Greg from Brother Nature
Brother Nature Produce has the best salad on the market
What Has Farming Done For Detroit, or For Those in Politics, Why the City NEEDS to SUPPORT Urban Farming?
In conclusion I have said all this to say that the people of Detroit, who have been holding it down all these years need to be lifted up right alongside ‘new Detroit’. If everyone really wants to see Detroit ‘come back’ then we must make economic moves with an eye to the future, not the past. The past was department stores that moved out, manufactures that left the country and downsized, convenient stores that found it too inconvenient to stay, and people that packed up like war was coming. The future is hundreds of small and lean businesses providing for the needs of the community first and foremost, but there is also plenty of room for investor funded stadiums and entertainment districts. By not selling land adjacent to adjacent lots or to farmers so that you can ‘hold it’ for a potential developer who ‘wants it all’ you are holding back development your damn self. Because while you wait for a big box store to come swallow up 4 blocks at a time, big box stores like Walmart, Sam’s club, and Kohl’s are closing up stores and unless 10s of thousands of suburbanites move back to the city there is no logical reason why they should abandon stores in more populated areas for depopulated ones.
Who wants to move to Detroit like it is now? Urban farmers, that’s who. Let us urban farmers be the backbone that puts people back to work, feeds the people actually fresh chemical free food, and connects person to person so that strangers become neighbors. I am not saying let everyone do whatever they want-that is why we have zoning and ordinances; I am saying make logical regulations in a timely manner and enforce them equally so that we all can have the things we need and want instead of fighting over tiny plots of land when there are acres and acres of empty land. Life doesn’t have to be like this. Urban farmers don’t demand tax breaks or regulations to be waved just for us; we want first dibs on the land we have been caring for, a hoop houses for health type program wherein people that do not have the money to buy all the lots they wish to have can work off the money buy selling produce directly to the community that are in at farmer’s markets, liquor stores, and grocery stores, drainage fee free metered access of hydrants and last but not least an end to repeated blight tickets. Come on! Detroit is sitting on prime agricultural land at an important international trade juncture; the original deed to my house refers to the plat as Thompson Farm, that land begs to be worked. It’s the truth chil’.
and for anybody that thinks my solutions are too far fetched I am waiting to hear what yours are.
mrs. bro nature
.Brother Nature Produce is a small farm that specializes in salad mix and herbs with an urban and rural location. We sell at the Eastern Market, Corktown market (that we helped establish), the Farmers' Hand (a small grocer in Corktown), and to several restaurants in a 2 mile radius of Detroit. It all started back in 2007....