From Motor City to Garden City: Sustainability and Urban Agriculture in Detroit

EPA Grant Number: U915387
Title: From Motor City to Garden City: Sustainability and Urban Agriculture in Detroit
Investigators: Steyaert, Karl M.
Institution: University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 8, 1998 through January 1, 2001
Project Amount: $51,122
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Biology/Life Sciences , Fellowship - Anthropology


The overall objective of this research project is to investigate a group of urban agriculturalists in the inner city of Detroit. The specific objectives of this research project are to: (1) describe the agriculturalists' efforts to build healthy and sustainable communities; (2) analyze the patterns of thought and action underlying these efforts; and (3) determine how these patterns might be useful in the design of sustainable community development in general.


The data for this project were collected primarily using the ethnographic methods of semistructured interviews and participant observation, supplemented by newspaper clippings, flyers, and informational brochures. Given the project's objective—finding patterns in the meaning systems and the personal histories of a small group of urban agriculturalists—these qualitative methodologies allowed for a nuanced and flexible exploration of the individuals' backgrounds, motivations, values, and visions. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 19 individuals directly involved with the Detroit Agriculture Network (DAN), an organization linking urban agriculture efforts in Detroit. Although almost all of the people interviewed are urban agriculturalists, some are involved with the DAN in a more explicit leadership or coordinating capacity. Interviews were conducted onsite—at the gardens, homes, or offices of the people being interviewed. Participant observation consisted of involvement in volunteer work sessions at urban gardens, potlucks hosted by the DAN, and DAN Council of Elders meetings, as well as several informal visits to the agriculturalists and their gardens during a 1-year period.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, Detroit Agriculture Network, DAN, urban agriculture, Detroit, sustainable communities., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, exploratory research environmental biology, Chemical Mixtures - Environmental Exposure & Risk, State, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecological Effects - Human Health, Ecology and Ecosystems, Sociology, Urban and Regional Planning, Social Science, Ecological Indicators, Agricultural Engineering, ecological sustainability, detroit, urban agriculture, agriculture

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999
  • 2000
  • Final