Day 1: It was 8:30am on a chilly spring morning when four students from Dr. Broadway’s Food and Society class approached the door of Michigan State University’s Swine facility. At the entrance they were met by a STOP sign informing them that they were entering a “biologically secure facility.” After showering and donning our officially laundered MSU “hog wear” we were led on a tour of the facility. We began with pig sperm and ended up seeing hogs at their slaughter weight of 260lbs, none of the animals ever went outside.
Our guide informed us that two days a week a UPS truck brings pig sperm to the facility; it was shipped by air from a farm in Iowa, no pigs ever entered the barn! In between the sperm and the adult animals we saw a “farrowing” suite where sows and baby piglets live for a short period until the piglets are weaned.
After showering (again) we left the Hog barn and drove to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen east of downtown Detroit. The Capuchin Soup Kitchen according to its mission statement “serves the poor who suffer from the lack of basic human needs: material needs, such as food, clothing, and household necessities; psychological needs, such as motivation, self-esteem, and rehabilitation; and social needs, such as support systems and meaningful relationships.” The Soup Kitchen also supports a program entitled Earthworks that “seeks to promote sustainable agricultural practices, nutrition and care for the Earth in Detroit’s inner city.”
Our guide took us on a tour of a greenhouse containing seedlings and several gardens the soup kitchen sponsors. He recommended we visit the nearby Heidelberg street art project (which we did) and a great thin crust pizza restaurant called Supinos in the Eastern Market. The owner of Supinos was an interesting man who explained to the class why he got into the pizza business and the challenges of starting a business in a depressed city like Detroit.
Day 2 :Our day began at the offices of the Greening of Detroit in the shadow of the old Tiger Stadium on Michigan Avenue. Our guide for the day began with an explanation of the Detroit Agricultural Network. Perhaps the most startling fact from the presentation was that 27% of the lots in Detroit are vacant but rather than looking at this as a problem this was seen as an opportunity to transform the lots into urban gardens to provide fresh and nutritious food to the city’s inner city residents. We were then taken on a tour of theCorktown neighborhood where we got to see urban gardens and goats and chickens being raised. Our field trip ended up in a French restaurant in Corktown- a delicious end to an interesting day. All that was left was the long drive back to Marquette.
Written by Carolyn Tobin, Zoe Davison, Jacinda Bowman, Patty Lawrence
Photos by Patty Lawrence