General Motors and Partners Create Detroit Urban Garden Using Repurposed Shipping Crates

August 2, 2012 by


GM’s metal shipping crates were repurposed into raised beds. Photo: John F. Martin for General Motors

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. The lot was abandoned. Then General Motors contributed 250 metal shipping crates that used to house auto parts and have now been repurposed into raised garden beds for Detroit’s new Cadillac Urban Gardens.


Katherine Guzman, 8, of Detroit fills her bag with tomatoes and peppers during the opening Wednesday of Cadillac Urban Gardens. Photo: Jessica J. Trevino, Detroit Free Press

Officially opened Wednesday, the gardens are a collaborative effort initiated in April between General Motors, Ideal Group, Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, and local composting company, Detroit Dirt. The soil, supplied by Detroit Dirt and sourced from local partners and sources including some Detroit Zoo animal manure, Astro Café coffee grounds, and composted food scraps from the Marriott Hotel in GM’s world headquarters and their Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant.


Detroit Dirt founder Pashon Murray, left, and John Bradburn, manager of General Motors’ waste reduction efforts, helped tend the Cadillac Urban Gardens. Photo: John F. Martin for General Motors.

“Instead of recycling this material, we found a direct reuse, which saves energy and resources,” said John Bradburn, GM’s manager of waste reduction efforts. “We seek opportunities for projects in our backyard that reduce environmental impact and strengthen communities.”


One of the metal shipping crates repurposed as a raised bed. Photo: Ideal Group.

More Than 1,400 Plants
Detroit Dirt provided urban planning expertise and Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision created the urban environmental plan. Rush Trucking delivered the GM-donated crates while volunteers from Ideal Group, Congress of Communities, and Better Day Ministries began the planting. Southwest Detroit families and residents were invited to participate in the urban gardening project, where community gardeners will take care of more than 1,400 plants.

Katherine Guzman, 8, of Detroit looking for peppers. Photo: John F. Martin for General Motors.

“Our mission is to create a space that promotes the health and security of our community,” said Frank Venegas, Ideal Group chairman. “Cadillac Urban Gardens is producing vegetables, community health and growth. This vision came true with fast action on the part of our collaborative partners. In four short months, we are well on our way to linking sustainability with producing community growth.”


Photo: John F. Martin for General Motors

In many parts of Detroit, land that once held houses or, in this case, an abandoned parking lot, is now cultivating cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and collard greens.

“Regardless of where you are at in urban environments, this is a possibility,” said Bradburn during a speech at Wednesday’s official unveiling.

Detroit has more than 500 gardens, many on land that once held houses. Residents now grow cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and collard greens on once abandoned properties. About the number of Detroit urban gardens, ”We plan to triple that every year,” said Michael Travis, deputy director of Urban Farming, a Detroit-based nonprofit corporation that helps clear land and provides topsoil and fertilizer.

The farms, some say, may also raise home values. According to real estate broker Russ Ravary, who works in the city and surrounding suburbs, in many neighborhoods, nearby gardens could add as much as $5,000 to selling prices.

Urban farming around the United States is supported by a number of corporate sponsors, including such companies as Whole Foods Market Inc. Triscuit, and Home Depot Inc.

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