Monday, May 3, 2010

UAID in a Nutshell

When we go to conferences, or social events, or other gatherings where people hear about UAID for the first time, people want what I call the "cocktail version" of what UAID is: a brief description that gives them the general idea. This is normally a struggle, partly because we've been involved in fairly limited activities so far compared to what we dream of doing. Essentially, because we're in the beginning stages still, there's a lot of shaping left to do.

I struggle to fit UAID in a nutshell - it certainly isn't almond sized, or hazelnut sized, or walnut sized. Maybe if I go for coconut-sized (a coconut is the largest nut in the world), I can manage it.

I picture UAID as a web of connections, or a network of bridges, between people who are and/or should be interested in Detroit. So far, we have some departments from Michigan State University on board, a bookstore in Lansing, and a community collective in Detroit. We're looking into additional partnerships all the time. The key, for us, is innovation (the word "initiative" helps convey this - the idea of a beginning, a fresh start). Detroit needs something new, something fresh, something knowledge-based. I know many people don't see agriculture as a knowledge-based field, but especially in urban areas, there's a lot of learning that needs to happen before it reaches its full potential. We see the challenges of urban agriculture not as an impediment to success, but as a pathway to fixing overall food systems.

That said, we are not about starting new community gardens, although we love community gardens and hope to see more of them - Greening of Detroit is doing a great job with that, and I'm constantly amazed by the level of support they offer Detroiters. We're not about starting goat farms, either (although some people do know us as the "goat girls") - though we love goats, think there's a place for them in the city, and have worked to create opportunities for that. We're not about aquaculture, or green therapy, or alternative energy. We're about seeing all of those things working together in a process that creates a sustainable economy for Detroit.

That's UAID in a nutshell.

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