Farming High School in Detroit Target of Harsh New State Law | Civil Eats

Farming High School in Detroit Target of Harsh New State Law

Recently a Detroit public high school that focuses on farming and second chances for young mothers was added to a list of schools that would be closed this summer. Catherine Ferguson Academy is on that list thanks to a new law that allows Michigan governor Rick Snyder to dismiss locally elected officials and put in place new ones. (I’ll let Rachel Maddow give the details in the video, below).

You might have heard that Detroit lost 25 percent of its population in the last decade. What has resulted is a lot of abandoned land and a lot of blight. And yet, Detroit is also home to an urban agriculture Renaissance, with projects like the Greening of Detroit and D-Town Farm, among others. Catherine Ferguson Academy is just one such place that offers opportunities in growing food to those who need it most.

Principal Asenath Andrews recognized that opportunity and created a vision that helped propel her students to success. “I need to figure out how kids can make around $20,000 a year minimum farming,” she said in a film that features the school, Grown in Detroit. Her graduation rate is 90 percent, and all of her students are being taught and tested with the expectation that they will go on to college. She even helps them find the money to make that happen. Meanwhile, they grow vegetables, raise animals, and are given childcare and health services at the school. Their school and work were even featured by Oprah’s magazine.

The students aren’t taking this threat to close their school lightly. Last week, some were even arrested as they protested the move.

If you feel moved to support the school, you can sign a petition here, and there is a fundraiser going to pay the legal fees of those fighting the closure here.

Here is Rachel Maddow’s coverage of the story from last Friday:

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.


Photo: via Grown in Detroit

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

Paula Crossfield is a founder and the Editor-at-large of Civil Eats. She is also a co-founder of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Her reporting has been featured in The Nation, Gastronomica, Index Magazine, The New York Times and more, and she has been a contributing producer at The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio. An avid cook and gardener, she currently lives in Oakland. Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

  1. Teresa Sitz
    The action against the school is one of the smallest and meanest things I've seen in a long time. What happened to our country?
  2. I used to live in Michigan, Detroit specifically. That city has the potential to be great. There are beautiful people who live there and it is not the dangerous place that the media will have you believe. The problem with Detroit and other cities in Michigan is that every time someone takes a step forward towards making it a better place the people in power (city government, business owners, state government) create actions that go two steps back. No progress. You drive thru that city and there are lots and lots of abandoned land left over from the shrinking population of the city. What a wonderful idea to turn them into farms. Farms to feed people in a city where no major chains of grocery stores exist. And better yet teach a skill you to young mothers and send them off to college. Great idea! But not in Michigan :-( So sad
  3. Wow. This is horrible to read about! I was in Detroit for the US Social Forum last year and that city is doing some wonderful things! In spite of the government.

    I hope that since Oprah featured the school (and profited from it by having it on her show), she'll step in and make sure this school survives financially.
  4. K.L.
    It's official-- Big Brother is here and he really, REALLY doesn't want you to have a prayer of getting out of poverty, let alone thinking independently. It used to be that America was the land of opportunity, and that hard work could improve your life. Now if you work too hard, you'll be punished for daring to step out of your place. This is American injustice at it's finest, and we as a country CANNOT continue to let it happen!
  5. YES in Michigan! And every state!
    This is not just about one school, although I love this school dearly. It is about all Detroit public schools, and really all of public education and whether we actually will have democracy and demand equality for all.
    Pleas read the demands of the CFA protest:

    • No School Closings
    •Keep All Detroit Schools Public – No More Charters or Privatization
    •Reinstate all programs and services that have been eliminated, including art & music as well as counselors & social workers
    •Student Control of Curriculum and School Character to assure that every Detroit school provides equal, quality education for all
    •No discipline or retaliation against any of the participants in the occupation


More from

Food Access


‘For the Culture’ Is a Joyful Celebration of Black Women and Femmes in Food

Klancy Miller’s new book showcases the ‘sisterly insights’ of 66 pioneers in food, wine, and hospitality, while not shying away from the hard truths of racism, sexism, and mental health.


How Crop Insurance Prevents Some Farmers From Adapting to Climate Change

Organic farmers grow radishes as cover crops. (Photo credit: Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Cover Crop Image database)

California Leads the Way in Low-Carbon School Meals

This Oregon Farmer Is Building a New Model for Indigenous Food and Agriculture

Spring Alaska Schreiner walks in her greenhouse at Sakari Farms. (Photo courtesy of Spring Alaska Schreiner)

Op-ed: Big Ag Touts Its Climate Strengths, While Awash in Fossil Fuels