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Growing Good Karma in The Rust Belt’s New Garden

waterworkTOP_whiteGrowing Good Karma in The HowesLocationRust Belt’s New Garden

(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 28, 2015)

What used to be concrete, wood chips, bushes and landscaping grass is now a rich organic gardening space alongside the Rust Belt Market at the corner of 9 Mile and Woodward in Ferndale.

Several weeks were spent tearing out the traditional suburban décor and planting what owner Chris Best hopes will be a thriving community garden.

“We aren’t going to sell the produce or anything, just let it grow and people can come and take Detroit_GT_ad04what they want,” Best said. “We’re going to have a sign that says ‘pick some weeds and take some produce,’ or something like that, to encourage people to help care for the garden.”

Along the alley visitors will find lettuce, corn, beets and tomatoes starting to grow. With the help of Green Thumb Garden Supply, Best was able to get healthy soil and non GMO seeds. If all goes well, there will be nutrient-rich bounty for the community.

“I wanted to do things right. It’s getting out of control with all this genetically modified food,” Best said. “It’s so messed up that we engineer our food around our lives. We make food that doesn’t taste like anything but that travels well and looks good.

“You know how when you go to the grocery store and you get a huge perfect apple but it doesn’t ferndale_pride_2015_02taste that great, but then you go to an orchard that has old trees that aren’t modified just to grow fast. Those apples taste great. Organic tomatoes, too, are full of flavor.”

He said the garden is, in a way, a statement on the need for food sources that are more local and more natural. “It’s a push back to the big corporations. Big oil. Big egg. Big agriculture. They’re all way too powerful.

The next step is to see if it sticks. Best says he is realistic that people may not respect the space. Several months ago over $800 worth of succulents were stolen from an installation SCOTT WRIGHT AD basic tallnear the back entrance to the Rust Belt.

“She just drove up and started taking them,” Best said.   “A worker in the area saw her and asked if she was supposed to be taking them and she told him she worked here. She even had the guy help her put a big pot in her truck.” The woman was never caught.

He’s since replanted the living wall, taking pride in doing something he knows will help clean the air and make The Rust Belt unique.

But even with the potential for theft or damage, Best remains hopeful. “Most people are good and I think people will respect what we’re trying to do.”

This isn’t the first time the Rust Belt has made a statement on being generous towards humanity with their building. In January the Rust Belt was among the businesses and volunteers that put scarves in public places for people who may need them. The scarves were placed at bus stops essentialand on the fence of the Rust Belt and were taken by people to keep warm.

“We just want to do things that help people,” Best said.

Even the market itself is a venue for helping others. Like an artisan upscale version of a flea market, The Rust Belt has booth space for local creators to get together and sell their wares. It also has an event space where many good causes have shared celebrations and fundraising efforts.

At the front of the Rust Belt’s green-space will be a patch of wildflowers.

Check them out online at or stop by the big building on the corner of W. 9 Mile and Woodward on the weekends.



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