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Is Food Key To Urban Renewal?

J. Carlisle Larsen/WDET

Stephen Henderson talks with Dave Zilko, vice chairman of the Ferndale-based company Garden Fresh Gourmet, about how food is important to Detroit’s revitalization.

Zilko shares Garden Fresh Gourmet’s story, from its humble beginning in the back of a restaurant on 8-Mile to the successful national company it has become.  Today, Garden Fresh Gourmet employs 457 people.

  • Food economy in Michigan and Detroit: Zilko says that Michigan has the second most diverse agricultural economy of any US state, and a large agricultural economic sector. He states that food sector jobs are stable and can be high-tech.   
  • Local food:  The local food and farm-to-table movements have influenced how people choose food.  Zilko believes that people value local food, and that it is economically ideal because is makes food jobs hard to outsource.  
  • Food access:  Stephen and Zilko agree that it can be hard for people in some areas of Detroit to access fresh food, but The Whole Foods in Midtown and the Meijer at 8 mile and Woodward are hopeful signs.  There was initial concern that Whole Foods would only serve better-off people, but they agree that it has a diverse clientele.
  • Urban farming:  Stephen asks Zilko about the future of urban farming in Detroit.  Zilko says that because of ground contamination, large-scale agricultural operations will be more difficult, but hydroponic agriculture is possible.  He hopes that in the future Garden Fresh Gourment will be able to use more local ingredients, such as cilantro, from urban hydroponic farming.  

Click the audio link above to hear the whole conversation.

Image credit: J. Carlisle Larsen/WDET

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