By Brett Kessler
Green Right Now

In a bygone American era, Detroit shone proudly as a center of industry, home to the Model T and other symbols of American progress. The decline of the car industry in recent decades, though, has cut the city’s population in half and left poor neighborhoods in even more derelict condition. Detroit is now home to thousands of acres of vacant land, most of it unmaintained, left to collect weeds and waste. The result? Many of the city’s residents live in what is termed a
“food desert.”

In many cases, people must travel twice as far to reach a grocery store as they would to get to a gas station or convenience
store. The lack of access to healthy food has widespread ramifications, including a host of diet-related health problems that only reinforce the residents’ low socioeconomic condition.

Urban Roots is a mosaic portrait of determined green activists reclaiming abandoned lots and turning them into urban gardens, bringing fresh produce to people who would otherwise subsist on fast food and packaged snacks. Director Mark MacInnis of Tree Media (creators of The 11th Hour) captures the transformative power of these efforts, which reunite fractured communities around a new cooperative, healthy way of living.

“Food is very, very essential,” says Cornelius Williams, a longtime Detroit resident turned urban farmer. “It’s the one thing that you can’t buy used. You know, you can buy used cars, clothes, and shoes, but when it comes to food it’s got to be new.”

Through snapshots of organizations such as D-Town, which has expanded into a seven-acre operation, to Brother Nature Produce, a farm situated in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood which began as a backyard gardening experiment, Urban Roots reveals a burgeoning movement in support of local, sustainable farming that may transform the city. The film’s patchwork approach, instead of exhausting the viewer, effectively traces the growth of the movement from its humble roots, allowing the vignettes to unfold organically.

At the end of the film, you’re left wondering why urban farming didn’t gain popularity sooner. Buying locally, after all, should be intuitive. As urban farmer Nefer Ra Barber says: “It doesn’t make sense to get garlic from China. How weird is that?”

Watch for Urban Roots at film festivals across the US. You can find local screenings here.

The Urban Roots project also offers kits for student, teacher or parent groups that want to start urban farming at local schools. The Put Farms in Schools project already had initiated several school produce gardens. It is starting in Los Angeles and then moving to Detroit.

Copyright © 2012 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network