At a tax auction, social psychology student Tyson Gersh, now 26, and a fellow Michigan alum paid $5,025 for a six-unit apartment complex in the city’s blighted North End, to act as the center of operations as they converted a nearby, 1.5-acre plot of land into an urban farm.
By Lauren Rothman
October 6, 2016
Today, Gersh and vice-president Molly Hubbell’s Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) not only produces thousands of pounds of organic produce each year, but also takes advantage of existing infrastructure in the community: Projects include a rainwater cistern made by waterproofing the foundation of a derelict home, and outfitting a former commercial building as a retail store for added-value products like pesto and tomato sauce.
We spoke with Gersh about MUFI’s location-specific approach to urban farming.
MUNCHIES: Hi, Tyson. So, how did you come to urban agriculture, and why in Detroit?
Tyson Gersh: My co-founder Darren and I moved to Detroit after grad school looking to buy some property to start something urban-farming related. I ended up taking a research position with the Urban Community Oral Health Interventions Project, looking at nutritional literacy and oral health practices in a really niche population in Detroit. It was women of color who had children under the age of five, and made less than $10,000 a year. I worked with over 200 women, and I got exposure to what this particular demographic’s relationship with the food system was. At that point, our idea went from, “It’d be cool if we did something” to “Holy crap, we really need to do anything.”