Detroit Farm and Cider’s Progressive Programming
Imagine yourself in a city of 4.3 million people, navigating the densely populated concrete jungle, suddenly coming upon a 4-acre idyll, chock-full of blooming fruit trees and wandering farm animals, buzzing bees, and the smell of cider lingering in the air.
Leandra King, owner and operator of Detroit Farm and Cider, has brought to fruition this possibility-laden prospect through hard-won vision and plenty of passion.
After navigating an arduous childhood which eventually left her homeless, King, through a combination of grit, good mentoring and irrepressible intelligence, started in 2017 a non-profit community building program called Finding Our Roots. Through that effort came Detroit Farm and Cider in 2019.
Tucked quietly off street in the Dexter-Linwood neighborhood, on the site of an abandoned elementary school, Detroit Farm and Cider boasts 139 fruit trees including apples, pears, plums and peaches. Its sprawling grounds are a host to greenhouses that grow a myriad of vegetables and herbs that are always available for picking and purchase. An aquaponics system supports year-round growth.
Out of doors, the farm is bustling with two resident goats — named Baby and Buttercup — cavorting between apiaries and restive chickens, who keep a surreptitious eye out for the denizen horses. Two large storage containers are deposited on the grounds for the future purpose of housing two cider mills. Someday, there is the dream of upgrading to a full-fledged barn.
Saturday evenings finds the farm playing host to exquisite three-course farm-to-table dinners catered by a rotating roster of talented local chefs. There’s also live music and horse-drawn carriages traipsing through the orchard. Sunday mornings the switch is flipped to an artisanal family-style brunch with casually elegant endless mimosas and thoughtful matinee programming for the littles.
Weekdays at the farm, however, are where the real purpose and meaning of the project come into focus. King’s vision to create programming for the city youth that holistically involves community work, activism, agriculture and environmentalism give her myriad volunteers and interns an opportunity for hands-on work, and a sense of accomplishment at the farm.
Likewise, the farm has an open-door policy for the metro city students, many who have never traveled outside of the city itself, with an aim to create positive awareness and personal optimism, encourage growth and develop newfound skills.
Purpose aside, King — or Farmer Lee, as she is affectionately dubbed — has created a safe space that offers the community an opportunity to have a rural experience in an urban environment. She has infused it with a sense of fun, as well. Whether it’s through a game of pick-up lacrosse or a ride on the zipline, an impromptu yoga class or a spur-of-the-moment sack race, the farm is a convivial place for her community.
The Harvest Festival held at the farm in the fall is the culmination of both the good times had and the hard work done. Featuring live music in the orchard, an array of local vendors, charming hayrides, and of course, warm apple cider and fresh-dipped doughnuts, the festival sees hundreds of locals from the community come through the farm over the weekend to celebrate.
At present, King has cider brought in from an orchard in Sterling Heights, Mich., but she is currently in negotiations with Blake’s Hard Cider Co. to have the farm’s apples pressed at their facility for the purposes of fermentation. There is no question that if King leans into cider like she has her work with the farm, then it will be another success for her and her community.
Find them at:
1600 Lawrence Street
Detroit, MI 48206