Detroit Evicts Blight-Eating, Landscaping, Money-Saving, Urban Goats

The City of Detroit evicted 18 urban goats on a community goat farm which had the intent to help eliminate tall weeds in the Brightmoor neighborhood. Brightmoor was plagued with overgrown vegetation and blight as a result of the “fall of Detroit.” The urban goat farm, named Idyll Farms Detroit, was the creation of Mark Spitznagel, CIO and founder of Universa Investments, a six billion dollar hedge fund, according to the Detroit Free Press. The urban goats of Idyll Farms Detroit have been given until Monday to vacate the City of Detroit. The urban farming project opened on Thursday on a deserted block of Brightmoor next to an abandoned home that had fallen victim to a fire, as so many abandoned Detroit homes have.

The orders to vacate were issued by the City of Detroit because the urban goat project violated the city’s ordinance which states that it is unlawful to harbor or maintain farm animals within the City of Detroit. Leonard Pollara, a consultant with Idyll Farms told the Free Press that he felt the mayor’s office considered the urban goat project some sort of a challenge. Pollara said, “We were hoping the city’s ordinance would be flexible, but he told me it was completely inflexible and that the only leeway he had was that there’s no welfare issue, the goats are in excellent condition and it’s clear that we’re taking care of them. It’s nothing wrong here other than we’re in violation of the ordinance.”

Mark Spitznagel plans to contact Mayor Mike Duggan. Pollara said he accepts responsibility for not understanding the strictness of the city’s urban farming ordinance and that he’s not upset with city officials, but people at Idyll Farms feels that their urban goat project can transform the blighted city. The goal, now, is to try to rewrite the city ordinance so that it would support such innovative projects in the future. Pollara believes projects like these offer the city hope. The goats are able to easily remove overgrown brush that the City of Detroit doesn’t have the money to maintain. At the same time, residents in the neighborhood seem to like the idea of the project.

Lisa Rivera, a Brightmoor resident, told the Free Press, “It’s awesome. Everyone in the Neighbors Building Brightmoor group, we’re on board. It seemed like a way to clean up the neighborhood and honestly, it’s just pretty sweet to see goats in the middle of a really blighted neighborhood. It’s so refreshing.”

Thursday, Gizmodo reported that Alex Asup, of LOVELAND Technologies, is working on a project to track the decay of the City of Detroit using Google Street View Time Machine. The project documents the blight of Detroit’s “feral houses” which have exceeded 78,000 in number. “Detroit is in ruins, and there are tons of innovative people who want to start from scratch and bring it back,” City Chickens Gone Country, a Facebook page dedicated to urban and backyard farming, explained in response to the news about the goat eviction. The page’s administrators had hoped that the blight-eating goats and urban farmers might turn Detroit around. The post continues, “Detroit’s worried about animals in the city limits… Have you guys looked around? You’re worried about goats giving you a bad reputation?” Asups images show the process of blight-growth of three areas. From top to bottom, Asup shows three houses falling into blight in a matter of years:

Urban farming of goats is not allowed in Detroit.
The City of Detroit holds over 78,000 decaying homes. Google Street View shows how it has fallen apart in just recent years. Urban goats could be used to fight the landscaping blight concerns.

Kathy Tonelli said, “In this case, the goats seem to do nothing but good. I think the regulation should be kept, but allow for people to apply for waivers. This seems like such a winning arrangement. I’m for the goats.”

Peggy Goodwin also supports the Brightmoor goats, “How short-sighted. Probably one of the best things to happen in Brightmoor. Involving creativity, innovation, nature and it’s humane. Unbelievable how fast they are evicting the goats but it took decades to address the blight.”

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In an article with over 70 comments, there were only a couple of people who had concerns about the urban goats in Detroit. Almost everyone agreed the goat farm was innovative. Concerns listed against the goats, besides for the ordinance, were concerns over the goat’s waste. Unlike the feral dogs of Detroit though, an urban farming supporter pointed out that the goats in this project were being maintained, not left to wander.

In addition to the efficient landscaping provided by the goats, the urban goat farm was in the process of hiring employees. “We’re donating to the community and giving some people a stipend, so we’re actually hiring them to come in and for many, it gives them the chance to learn about livestock,” Pollara said. “The reason we’re doing this is because we believe it’s a model that can be replicated. It seemed like an opportunity for the farm to adopt the community as an operator and a companion. It seemed like a win-win on all sides. Our focus was to make this a community-based effort.”

Brightmoor resident Jermaine Houser told the Free Press, “Since we’re in a city that’s strapped for cash, I think we should come up with something like this that’s positive that will help the city. The fact that it will bring employment to some in the community, it’s helping the city and businesses around and it’s keeping all of the money in the community. I’ve seen all of these houses burn down and disappear. It’s nice to see something different for a change.”

Detroit’s decision to enforce the ordinance comes just over a month after a ruling by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development that sent Michigan’s backyard and urban farmers into an uproar. Do you think Detroit should issue a temporary waiver so that the urban goats of Idyll Farms Detroit can have a chance to prove themselves?

[Featured image via Chris on Flicker]