Detroit, $18 billion in debt and seeking bankruptcy protection, is desperate to reinvent itself. Once America’s 10th largest city and the world’s car-manufacturing capitol, the Motor City/Motown is exploring ways to regain financial viability with a population that’s 40% of its peak levels in the 1950s and with acres of vacant land.
Why not plant grapes and build a new mecca for wine production in Michigan, a state with a robust and growing wine industry? Michigan already boasts dozens of wineries across five distinct wine-growing regions, but Detroit to date has not been part of this boom.
Yet urban farming is indeed sprouting on plots of Detroit land abandoned by former residents, businesses and factories, and many city boosters see farming as an ingredient of a successful future for this city with such a vast physical footprint.
Even if Detroit’s soil proved hopeless for growing any of the many local or European grape varieties, wine makers would find cheap real estate there to set up winery and tasting room operations.
B. Nektar Meadery set a precedent for such a business model when its founders claimed an unused property in Ferndale, Michigan, a short drive north of Detroit, and scaled up their formerly home-based honey-wine production.
Where the entrepreneurial spirit simmers, empty land goes begging, and thirsty wine lovers await, I see opportunity.