Community Progress Blog

From a shipping container to a solar-powered greenhouse: Arts meets agriculture in Detroit

Written by on September 15, 2017

In Detroit, a recycled shipping container will soon become a community beacon for fresh food, job creation, and arts and culture.

Part agricultural, part placemaking, the Liberty Harvest project officially launched in July 2017. It is an initiative spearheaded by Resurge Detroit, a nonprofit with a mission to “tackle blight in the city of Detroit through initiatives that focus on community driven development of vacant spaces to create a collective impact.”

“Liberty Harvest is an off-grid, solar-powered greenhouse retrofitted from a recycled shipping container,” explains Jibran Ahmed, executive director of Resurge Detroit. The greenhouse will serve will engage Detroit-based veterans and youth.

The Liberty Harvest project (Credit: Resurge Detroit)

Liberty Harvest is part of a bigger vision. It was strategically placed on a vacant lot next to the future home of Veterans Village, transitional housing for veterans interested in helping rebuild Detroit with sustainable solutions. Through a partnership between Motor City Blight Busters of Detroit and United Peace Relief, Veterans Village will combine housing with urban farming, green job training, small business incubation, volunteer community service, and cultural development projects.

The founders view Liberty Harvest as a pilot program for the next generation of placemaking. “Placemaking projects should not only be human-centered and socially driven, but also provide long-term economic impact for the community,” says Ahmed.

Jibran Ahmed (left) pictured with partners in the Liberty Harvest project. (Credit: Resurge Detroit)

Liberty Harvest itself got off the ground thanks to a number of partners. Motor City Blight Busters offered their land, volunteer base, and expertise, and will be the lead in managing and sustaining the project. C3 Ventures and ModEco built the greenhouse through their expertise in shipping container structures. Patronicity provided the crowdfunding platform, which raised $31,750 in 90 days, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation provided a matching grant of $31,750. A sponsorship from Flagstar Bank also helped to bring the project to fruition.

Gordon Soderberg, head of Veterans Village, Program Manager for Motor City Blight Busters, and a military veteran, runs Liberty Harvest.

The food grown at Liberty Harvest will be sold at local farmer’s markets, grocery stores, or donated. All money that is made from these sales will be invested back into programming. The project initially aims to push 100 veterans through Liberty Harvest programming per year and facilitate continuous youth programming year round.

Jibran Ahmed plans to continue his work turning blight into beauty through innovative, creative, and economically powerful placemaking. Learn more about Resurge Detroit by visiting www.resurgedetroit.org.

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