By Erica Rakowicz
Detroit is growing. Brightmoor community, along with many other neighborhoods in Detroit, is growing fruits, vegetables, confidence, responsibility, relationships, unity and positive outlooks. 
Urban gardening sprung up in pockets around Detroit as a way to alleviate feelings of danger and discontentment in the city and grow fresh and healthy food for families. Volunteers board old abandoned houses up and then decorate, paint and make artwork of something that lingered as a complete eyesore and a reason to worry out of fear. The old abandoned houses seemed to serve as a place for drug deals, prostitution and unwanted activity, but when boarded up and made artwork, it marks a time of change for the city of Detroit.
In efforts to not let this renovation and spirit go unnoticed, Madonna graduate Julie Pulgini used her two passions, sociology and film making, to solidify this story for the rest of the world to see, in a Socioeconomic Impact of Urban Gardening Documentary. The idea was to create a visual sociology project and amplify the positive in Detroit.
Pulgini went through a series of plans, grant writing and re-writing, idea pitching and ironing out research qualifications, before starting filming in the summer. 
Pulgini collaborated with Madonna graduate Aaron Guay, Gerald D. Charbonneau and Charles Derry along the way.
More than 50 gardeners, community members, volunteers and elected officials spoke in interviews about how urban gardening has affected their community as well as the mood and air of the community.

Madonna University housed a webinar that presented a segment of Pulgini and Guay’s film on Wednesday March 13 as part of The MSU EDA University Center for Regional Economic Innovation’s 2013 webinar series.

The information and research gathered by Pulgini and Guay was something like a snowball effect, Pulgini said. Her inquiries with one gardener led to more information from community members and other helpful sources. 

Urban gardening inspires the community to do well for themselves and those around them in the way of planting their own food, up-keeping their neighborhood, meeting with others in the community for brainstorming and an all encompassing desire to generate a safer environment in Detroit. 

These gardens are a place for children to gather and create art. There’s a stage at one of the gardens where kids, adults and different speakers perform and bring an element of entertainment into their own backyards.

Local musicians and artists thrive off of this type of positive re-creation. Chris Buchanan El wrote and sang a song featured in the documentary. His inspiration came from his love of Detroit and its unceasing ability to rise above the negativity. 

Guay found it most powerful to watch the community members coming together to clean up and found it rewarding to see youth learn responsibility and the ability to create and provide for themselves.

Pulgini and Guay follow the progress of the gardens since their beginning in June 2012. Pulgini sees and hears only positive comments about the neighborhood. She said there’s a mention of concern from residents about land banking. The community members don’t want to lose what they’ve worked so hard to revive.

These gardens are open-air, but no one seems to take advantage of the freedom, Pulgini said. The gardeners either leave directions in regard to gathering fruit and vegetables, or they’ll leave a phone number for inquiries. Visitors abide.

Children learn entrepreneurship through the gardens by picking fruits and vegetables and selling them at markets around town, like the Eastern Market. 

Charbonneau hopes to see this project spread and become a sort of movement. People are latching onto the ideal, understanding the benefits and recognizing the importance and he hopes the rest of Michigan will catch on. Then, maybe the rest of the world will too.

Visit REI’s website for future progress on the Socioeconomic Impact of Urban Gardening Documentary at 



Detroit grows with gardens