Vilsack promotes Biden administration’s urban agriculture effort during Detroit visit

By: - June 28, 2023 6:52 am

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (center) touted Biden administration funding for underserved communities during a visit to Detroit’s Eastern Market. He was joined by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) (left) and U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit) right. | Ken Coleman

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday touted Biden administration funding for underserved communities during a visit to Detroit’s Eastern Market. 

He was joined by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing), chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, and U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit). Vilsack also visited Flint during the Tuesday visit. 

Vilsack outlined how U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiatives and investments in Detroit and across the state are “helping to build more markets for producers and entrepreneurs and looking to establish opportunities for producers and more options for consumers.”  

“We’re excited about the fact that we have established 17 urban food centers, one of them in Detroit, and those centers also have a food service agency office located in the city to provide assistance, help and information for farmers here in Detroit where they might be able to obtain a microloan,” said Vilsack.   

In January, the USDA announced that it was making $7.5 million for grants through its Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. The competitive grants are designed to support the development of urban agriculture and innovative production projects.

Brandon Russell of Detroit, an Eastern Market vendor. | Ken Coleman

Earlier this month, the USDA announced six new locations for Farm Service Agency county committees that will be focused “exclusively on urban agriculture.” They include metro Detroit and metro Grand Rapids. The six locations join 11 others that were previously announced. Other communities include Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Oakland. 

“Supporting agriculture in our urban communities helps grow our economy and provides food to people,” said Stabenow. “I’m proud that Michigan has been a pioneer in this effort. Urban farmers provide fresh and healthy food to children and families while creating jobs and revitalizing our neighborhoods.”

Thanedar said he is working with Stabenow, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and the Biden administration to secure more funding for urban farmers.  

“We need to have more investment, more loan programs, more grants and make it more accessible to the small farmers, urban farmers, Black and Brown farmers, because they are the ones that we need to lift up,” said Thanedar. 

Brandon Russell of Detroit, who is African American and operates Adamah Farm and is a vendor at Eastern Market, welcomed the Visack, Stabenow and Thanader visit to his space.

“It was nice to see them,” Russell said, who grows carrots, kale, collard greens and other vegetables. “I was not expecting it.”  


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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.