UM-Dearborn student Tepfirah “Tee” Rushdan, Detroit’s first director of urban agriculture, is working to grow community efforts toward food sustainability.
When thinking of farming, many people may imagine broad fields of crops with grazing animals, well away from the concrete jungle of major cities. But over the last few decades, local food security, sustainability concerns and neighborhood green space movements have created an enthusiasm for urban agriculture, growing food within the smaller areas available within city limits, including vacant lots, gardens and balconies.
Rushdan is helping push these movements forward. The urban and regional studies major holds leadership roles in three local farming- and food justice-focused nonprofits and was recently appointed the city of Detroit’s first director of urban agriculture, a sign of the growing importance of these efforts to the city’s vitality. Appointed to the role this fall, Rushdan will help shape city policy regarding urban farming and serve as a liaison to the urban farming community.
The value of a government position for urban agriculture, Rushdan says, comes from the unique nature of the practice. “Farming in a city is totally different than farming in a rural area,” she says. “And farmers are left to navigate complicated city functions that are, frankly, not necessarily meant for farmers.”
Rushdan, a Detroit resident, says she first came to gardening both through a desire to beautify her neighborhood, while also achieving a degree of self-reliance by growing her own food.