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Detroit gardeners frustrated by new rules for city lots

Tony Buser

Community gardeners in Detroit are angry about new permit requirements for gardening on city-owned lots.

Reit Schumack heads an organization on the city’s west side called Neighbors Building Brightmoor, which puts in gardens, wildflower stands and pocket parks on dozens of city lots. Schumack says the new rules include a ban on bringing in new soil or compost, unless the city grants lot-by-lot permission:

"If we have to ask for every single lot for everything that we want to do, we have to fill in a paper, bring it to the city, wait for their response before we do anything… by that time the season is over, and you’re stuck with a lot full of weeds."

Schumack organizes a youth group that grows and sells produce. But the new rules say you can’t do that either.

"It’s a beautiful self-sustaining program where 15 kids are busy the entire growing season, make money, learn all kinds of skills, and really, I can’t do this. This is forbidden, what I’m doing."

Schumack says there were 12 kids in the program last year who grew 1,500 pounds of food, and shared $3,000 in profits from selling the produce at farmer’s markets.

Sarah Hulett is Michigan Public's Director of Amplify & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.