Monday, April 4, 2011

Detroit Food and Sustainability News for 4/4/11

Detroit Where the Weak are Killed and EatenApril2011BadgeMichigan Stand Up and Fight

Detroit Free Press: Indoor shrimp farming could grow into big industry for Michigan

To ramp up the automotive industry in Michigan, Henry Ford built the Rouge Plant -- a manufacturing infrastructure that could produce everything needed, from glass to steel, to make cars.

Today, Russ Allen is looking for a way to build a shrimp Rouge Plant -- a pollution-free, recirculating facility that could breed, grow, process and ship a million pounds of shrimp a year.

It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. Allen, who spent 23 years establishing outdoor shrimp farming in Central and South America, has been raising shrimp indoors in Okemos since 1994 at his Seafood Systems research facility.
"This could be the start of an entirely new industry for Michigan, a clean industry, with new jobs," he said -- if he can find the $10 million he needs to build a commercial plant.
There is a photo gallery.

People talk a lot about Detroit as a center for urban agriculture, but this is the first story I've seen about urban aquaculture here. Honestly, I have to say I find this one to be a complete surprise to me. As for his idea, it will most likely work (he already raises 25,000 pounds of shrimp a year in Okemos), although I wonder how sustainable it really is. Shrimp are tropical and require a lot of heat.

Associated Press via Detroit Free Press: Environmental rule on large factory farms upheld

For various reasons, I don't quote AP articles. However, I will link to them if I find them worth reading. This one is, as it describes how factory farms have to abide by water quality standards.

And now, someone worth watching, or keeping an eye on, depending on your perspective.

Detroit Free Press: In Detroit, urban farming waiting to take root

When Detroit's city council approved the sale of 20 parcels of land to the proposed Hantz Farms project this month, it looked like commercial urban agriculture might be about to start in the city.

But the council imposed restrictions on the sale of the land, which lies behind a warehouse owned by businessman John Hantz at 17403 Mt. Elliott. Hantz Farms, a subsidiary of the larger Hantz Group of financial service firms, cannot grow crops or sell any produce from the site without the city's permission.

Instead, Hantz Farms will beautify the roughly 5 acres of blighted land behind the warehouse with landscaping, either with grass or some small plants, as a demonstration of how it can clean up an abandoned site, said Michael Score, the president of Hantz Farms and a former Michigan State University agricultural extension worker.

Hopefully soon, Score added, the city will allow Hantz Farms to farm the site and others in the city.
Last year, my neighbor showed me a newspaper clipping about Hantz and asked me what I thought about him and his idea. I think the idea has merit, but I'm not sure about him. The article mentioned that he was inspired by the ideas of Ayn Rand. I really don't care for Rand or her followers and think anyone who thinks favorably of her could be real trouble.

There are 99 comments on this article. I suggest you read them; you'll get a good idea of the controversies around this project, and the range of agendas and concerns that people have about urban agriculture.

Here's a video report on Hantz Farms.

There is also a non-profit organization called Urban Farming based in Detroit. I've met its director Taja Sevelle. I don't have the reservations about her outfit that I have with Hantz's. Here's a video report on her.

Non-food sustainability news after the break.

Remember I talked about how to save local cultural institutions? Looks like some local groups are already doing just that.

Detroit Free Press: Civic groups are funding events, services after cities stop

Some nonprofit civic groups have turned from buying frills, such as outdoor sculptures, to paying costs that once were on local government budgets.

For the first time, a community foundation will pay the full tab -- projected to be more than $20,000 -- this year for St. Clair Shores' annual Memorial Day parade. To foot the bill, the St. Clair Shores Foundation will hold a fund-raiser tonight starring native son and nationally known comic Dave Coulier.
Trivia: Dave Coulier and I were born the same day.

As for other civic groups in other communities, Huntington Woods held a fundraiser for recycling bins (that counts as a sustainable action right there), Redford Township is recruiting volunteers for Neighborhood Watch to make up for the job of one police officer, and Lincoln Park is trying to get local businesspeople to sponsor concerts and landscape parkland.

The Free Press also ran Cities use gifts, grants as sources of funding. It isn't quite as heart-warming.

Communities are scouring state, federal and corporate bulletins for opportunities to fill holes in their shrinking budgets to pay for everything from fruits and vegetables for kids, to cops and firefighters on the street.

State and federal grants, along with gifts from corporations and foundations, are helping many cities pay for everything from essentials, like municipal services and capital building projects, to frills like recycling bins and public art that often are the first things to go in tough budget times.
Municipalities might like the money from the state and federal governments now, but they're leery about the continuing expense once the grants dry up.

Remember that I blogged about Detroit's water system last week? The next day, it was in the news.

New salary cap for water chief

Mayor Dave Bing's office, having trouble attracting good candidates to run the troubled Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, convinced the City Council on Tuesday to increase the director's salary cap from $156,000 to $256,000.

Council members and Bing said the department requires quality candidates.

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson dissented, saying a pay hike is not the priority when more residents are having trouble affording rising bills.
Stay tuned for more about Detroit's water war.

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