When I applied to Semester in Detroit, I never envisioned myself working on a farm. But there I was on May 10 at 11 am at D-Town Farm: It was cold and extremely quiet. I was not sure I was going to enjoy my summer interning at the farm, but I went in with optimism. By the end of the summer, the farm had helped me learn about agricultural work, community building, and allowed me to tap into my artist side.

D-Town is part of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, an organization working to address food insecurity and access issues in Detroit’s Black communities. I wanted to intern at D-Town because I am an African American Studies major with an interest in food traditions and access in Black communities. From the description of the organization’s work, I thought D-Town would be a good fit for me; I would work with Black people and learn a method of addressing food insecurity that was created by and for community members. 

The morning I stepped onto the farm I had no previous agriculture experience. I was a little nervous but I knew how to pull weeds and use a shovel, so I figured I had the basics; whatever else I needed to know I would learn over the course of the summer. I was really excited to work at the farm; I knew it would be a great experience, and I could not wait to learn something new. I learned a lot about growing, cultivating, and harvesting food at the farm, but I really valued the community building that happened at the farm.

At D-Town, I worked with another SiD student and a handful of interns from the School for Environment and Sustainability. Spending the summer learning alongside other people of color and UMich students, who were from different backgrounds made the farm a diverse environment. This naturally meant that people were sharing similar and differing opinions and beliefs. We had moments of contention and resistance, but people shared their perspectives, listened to each other, and learned a new way to view an issue.

A collage of pictures from D-Town that Alana created for Darcy Brandel's Detroit Artist as Activist course

There were regular discussions about political ideology, freedom struggles, race in America, music, and, of course, food. We learned about each other and our experiences in the world; talked about movies, listened to music while we worked, laughed and joked, offered snacks and food recipes. My co-workers at the farm were just as important to my SiD experience as my fellow cohort members because I saw them every day–sometimes more than my cohort members.

The farm is a truly beautiful space. I would not describe myself as an outdoor person, but I truly appreciated my time there and found so much beauty and peace in nature. Living outside downtown Detroit, I do not encounter these spaces often, so I really came to appreciate the silence and all the green that was surrounding me. Friday mornings in the spring, in particular, were very serene; it would be chilly, misty, and, when I got there at 9 am, the sun was still rising. D-Town was a great place for me to meditate and reflect on what I was learning in SiD classes, who I was and I want to be, and what role I would play in the future of Detroit. At the same time, I was enrolled in Darcy Brandel’s Detroit Artist as Activist course and had to share a creative expression each week. I started taking pictures at the farm–and around the city–and created collages with the pictures I took. After that, I began exploring graphic design more and learned more skills.