Detroit Farm and Garden (DFG), a landscape, farm and garden supply store, is now open and growing in the former Third Police Precinct in southwest Detroit. The store, which opened in April, celebrated its official grand opening Sept. 14 with a tour that kicked off three days of fun and festivities.
“The store supports Detroit’s communities,” says co-owner Jeff Klein, 39, who has lived and worked in the city for more than 15 years as a landscape architect and designer and partner at Detroit-based Classic Landscape Ltd. His partner at Classic and DFG is Andy Ray of Royal Oak.
Through his work, as a homeowner in the city (he lives in North Corktown) and as an activist in urban agriculture, Klein saw an unmet need.
“I continually felt the effects of a lack of access to quality landscape, gardening and farming supplies like soil, mulch, naturally organic fertilizers and soil amendments,” says Klein, who grew up in Huntington Woods and graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in landscape architecture. “We are here to bridge these gaps.”
It was music that brought Klein to the Motor City. He was a drummer in a 1990s rock ‘n roll band, Ko and the Knockouts. Although his music career faded, the discovery of a thriving (under-the-radar) Jewish community helped make Detroit “home” for him.
“At first, I felt disconnected from being Jewish,” Klein said. “I didn’t think there were many Jews around.”
A few years later, he discovered that many people living in his neighborhood and working for the local nonprofit Greening of Detroit were Jewish. “I told my mom, ‘I’m living in a Jewish community right here in the city.’
“It was a nice eye-opener. It got me engaged and wondering what about Judaism and our upbringing brought us here to work on issues related to social and environmental justice,” he says.
One of those Jewish neighbors he met is Jon Koller, who is involved in community development at Friends of Spaulding Court in North Corktown.
“Jeff has been at the front of the agricultural movement for years, and it’s been awesome to watch him take his passion to the next level,” Koller says. “If you walk around North Corktown, you’ll find a handful of beautifully maintained projects — a good number of those are Jeff’s.”
Klein and Koller are both actively involved with the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue.
Urban farming in Detroit is a growing and important piece of the local economy, according to Klein, and has been present since about the turn of the century. It wasn’t until the 1970s though, with the launch of Detroit’s Farm-A-Lot program, that the modern urban agriculture movement in the city really began.
“As an urban agriculture activist and humble gardener, it was easy to envision Detroit Farm and Garden as a place that supported that movement — a movement of people embracing the individual empowerment, reconciliation and healing that can be achieved through community gardening and farming,” Klein says.
In March, DFG held its first fundraiser, selling 120 DFG “Supporting the Local Landscape” T-shirts, and raising more than $5,000 to help beautify its new location. The store was spruced up with new paint through the help of volunteers and the nonprofit Summer in the City.
The store, Klein says, represents the emerging sophistication of Detroit as a place for new ways of thinking about food, agriculture and doing business.
“We hope to help inspire and empower people to take control of the physical landscape in ways that are good for the community,” says store employee and food activist Jen Rusciano.
Looking around DFG headquarters, Klein is reminded “of the power landscape holds in perpetuating positive change and a connection to our environment.”
As Koller puts it, “DFG is a step up for the urban farming movement in the city.”
Fun & Learning
DFG plans to empower the community through education and entertainment. It will kick off its “Straw Bale Sessions” on Monday, Oct. 15. Straw Bale Sessions feature live music on the store’s Straw Bale stage. Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs will be the featured act. Contact the store for more details or check out www.facebook.com/detroitfarmandgarden or detroitfarmandgarden.com.
DFG also offers a variety of classes for the budding urban (or suburban) farmer. On Sunday, Oct. 21, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at DFG, check out “The People’s Pickles” from local pickler Blair Nosan, founder of Suddenly Sauer. The fermentation class will teach you how to brine and kraut your way to delicious preserved vegetables.