UDM to hold symposium on urban agriculture law

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 Program will look at cultural aspects of urban agriculture

By Steve Thorpe
Legal News

The current state of farming in Detroit will get an in-depth look later this week.

The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law will present “Going to Seed: Agriculture in Distressed Cities”  on Friday, March 7, from 9:30 a.m. - 2:45 p.m. at the school at 651 East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit.

UDM Law Professor Jacqueline Hand organized the event and will provide the introductory remarks. She will also moderate sessions along with UDM Law Associate Professor Julia Belian. Associate Professor of Architecture Daniel Pitera, Director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center at UDM, will give the keynote speech.

“One of the things we’re trying to do with this program is to provide a broader perspective,” Hand says. “We’re making decisions today that are going to impact the city over the next 100 years. The reason I wanted to do this conference was to bring in people who are thinking about those broader issues.”

Some of the topics to be covered include:

• Cultural Aspects of Implementing Urban Agriculture

• Nuts and Bolts of Building a Local Food System 

• Local Perspectives on Detroit’s Green Thumb

Participants will include Jaime Bouvier, Case Western Reserve University School of Law; Becky Jacobs, University of Tennessee College of Law; Dara Marcus, University of Ottawa; Jessica Owley, SUNY Buffalo Law School; Anastasi Telesetsky, University of Idaho College of Law; Peter Wendel, Pepperdine University School of Law; Daniel Carmody, President of the Eastern Market Corporation; and Becky Lundberg Witt of the Community Law Center in Baltimore, Md.

“Part of what has made the ‘urban ag’ scene in Detroit so interesting is that it’s been sort of a seat of the pants, under the legal radar phenomenon,” Hand says. “Much of the activity would’ve been technically illegal under the zoning act until it was changed.” 

Those zoning laws, in part, compel property owners to be good neighbors and not engage in activities that will “spill over” to other properties. This is never more true than in the case of urban agriculture.

“If I have cats and, for some reason, can’t get to the litter box today, the only one impacted is me,” Hand says. “If I have a chicken coop and don’t attend to it, that’s different. In Detroit, you’re still talking about an urban environment, even if it’s occasionally not a dense one. Even with as much as Detroit has shrunk, it’s still denser than Dallas or Phoenix.”

The symposium and lunch are free, but online registration is required at www.law.udmercy.edu. For more information, contact Assistant Dean Denise Hickey at 313-596-0202 or hickeydp@udmercy.edu.

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