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Detroit: A Tale of Two… Farms?

recent article in The Wall Street Journal celebrated the Hantz Farms project to establish a 10,000 acre private farm in Detroit. The project hinges on a very large land deal offered by financial services magnate John Hantz to buy up over 2,000 empty lots from the city of Detroit. Hantz’s ostensible objective is to establish the world’s largest urban mega-farm.

I say “ostensible” because despite futuristic artists’ renderings of Hantz Farms’ urban greenhouses, presently John Hantz is actually growing trees rather than food. The project website invites us to imagine “high-value trees… in even-spaced rows” on a three-acre pilot site recently cleaned, cleared and planted to hardwood saplings. These trees, it seems, are just a first step in establishing a 200 acre forest and eventually–pending approval by the City Council–the full Hantz megafarm.

In the short run, the purchase by Hantz cleans things up, puts foreclosed lots back on the tax rolls and relieves the city of maintenance responsibilities. If the tree farm expands, it could provide a few jobs. In the long run, however, Hantz hopes his farm will create land scarcity in order to push up property values–property that he will own a lot of. Read more

Is This the Future of Food Guides?

With the success of films like Food Inc., books such as Fast Food Nation, and shows like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, people everywhere are starting to learn more about the food system. But what about the specific foods we eat? What if there was a place where you could learn about the exact foods you were eating — in real time — whether you were at your family dinner table, in a favorite restaurant, or even alongside a food truck? Read more

Dinner Is Love: In Conversation with Laurie David

She had her epiphany at the dinner table. It was just a year and a half ago now. Dessert was lone gone, but her kids were still at the table talking. She sat back in her chair, and realized: oh my gosh, this is the one thing I’ve done right as a parent. She reflected how it hadn’t happened by itself. It had been a conscious effort to create family dinner rituals at home. Perhaps, she wondered, she could share this with other people…

Laurie David, producer of the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and author of The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming, is fired up about family dinners. She’s used her epiphany to write a wonderfully inspiring, and deeply enlightening book that demonstrates how family dinners have the potential–if we embrace them–to be so much more than just, “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?” Read more

Starting a Socially Responsible Food Business? Try The L3C Or The B-Corp

One way of improving the United States food system has more to do with business practices than it has to do with food.

The now-popular idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR) dictates that businesses should take it upon themselves to forgo profits their shareholders demand so they can address social problems. But, as Aneel Karnani posits in a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal, the reasoning behind CSR is flawed. Publicly traded companies, including those that produce the lion’s share of our food, are required by law to prioritize maximizing profits to satisfy their shareholders, who are generally taken to desire profit above all else. Read more