It isn’t often you see the words teen pregnancy and urban agriculture in the same sentence. Not only are these two words now being used together, but for one Detroit school, urban farming is a tool to help pregnant women get the nutritional food they need and hopefully turn them into future farmers of America. The Ferguson Academy for Young Women is an alternative high school located in Detroit, where education and resources are provided for pregnant teens, grades 9-12. Here the students continue their education with classes in music, home repair, IT, fine arts and parenting. But unlike other teenagers, these young women also grow crops and care for the school’s farm animals housed in the barns that lie adjacent to the school. In the past, I have written about Detroit as the next agrarian paradise, but this program uniquely brings together a multitude of social, cultural, economic and environmental issues.
The documentary, Grown in Detroit, developed by Norwegian documentary filmmakers Mascha and Manfred Poppenk, focuses on the urban gardening efforts that have been undertaken by the 300 students at Ferguson. In a city where more than 3,000 pregnant teenagers drop out of school each year, a new, greener landscape is creating opportunities for these young people and the community.
Once one of the wealthiest cities in America, Detroit has become one of the most dangerous, faced with economic and social challenges. The land here was converted a century ago to make room for the industrial boom that the city experienced. But now, as businesses close their doors and residents flee, the land left behind is once again being cultivated and Detroit’s steadfast citizens are getting back to their roots.
These young mothers and pregnant teens, who were initially averse to the physical work of farm life, are being taught agricultural skills, harvesting crops for themselves, the community and selling produce to the market. With the land and the crops thriving, without the use of pesticides, and with plenty of native flowers growing on these lots, the city’s bee population is uniquely healthier than most of America. In this nearly extinct urban environment, innovation is providing the city’s future generations with a better, healthier future, painting a renewed image of America.
The school is named after Catherine Ferguson who was a famous freed slave living in New York in the early 1800’s. Although Catherine could not read, she was one of the largest promoters of education in the poverty stricken areas around the city. Ferguson was named a “Breakthrough High School” by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. In order to graduate from the Academy, each student must be accepted to a two year college or a four year university.
View the documentary and experience the power and profit that nature can provide.