The Catherine Ferguson Academy - Spirit of Detroit

Article excerpt

Despite the many struggles the people of Detroit have faced and continue to face, they are developing solutions. In the 2009 film documentary "Grown in Detroit" Dutch filmmakers, Mascha and Manfred Poppenk describe the city as "blooming from within." The film shows various images demonstrating that more than one third of the city has become green again creating new opportunities for city residents. The filmmakers cite an interesting example of how the bee population, which is nearly extinct in the United States, is blossoming in Detroit. "The extensive variety of native and cultivated flowers on the now flourishing lots and the lack of pesticides make Detroit's unique environment perfect for a healthy honey bee population and prolific honey production."

While the film addresses this urban green renewal in Detroit, its focus is on the urban gardening efforts of the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public school of nearly 400 students, most of whom are young African American women. The academy was started in the 1960s as a school for young pregnant women and teenage mothers. It was named after Catherine Ferguson, an African American woman educator and social worker born into slavery. (Hartvick, 1996)

The academy is both a school and an urban farm rolled into one where students learn to harvest vegetables and to care for city livestock. The curriculum focuses on agricultural skills, knowledge of the importance of nutritious foods, the process by which these foods arrive at their plates, and ultimately, on empowering young women to become independent through the process of learning to farm.

"Farming is pretty amazing in that it requires so much science and reasoning and thinking and even writing," says the school's principal, Asenath Andrews. The farm has nearly 200 garden plots and each class is required to maintain a garden plot for students to conduct research and determine what crops to grow and when to harvest. …