Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund selects 30 farmers ...

Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund selects 30 farmers for cash grants to buy land

“It’s not just about farming. There is a legacy in land ownership. It’s a continuation of generational wealth building.” - Tepfirah Rushdan

detroit farmers working on making a new area of grass into a garden

Brenda Sharpe of Detroit has had a personal garden for years, but for the last two she has grown a community garden on lots adjacent to her westside home with hopes of expanding into an urban farm. Red tape with the city has delayed her from moving forward with that aspiration, but thanks to the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund, she will be able to get the help she needs.

Sharpe is one of 30 awardees granted money from the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund after its overwhelmingly successful fundraising campaign that launched last June. The goal was to raise $5,000. To date, the fund has raised $65,000, said Tepfirah Rushdan, Keep Growing Detroit co-director and initiator of the campaign to help Black farmers like Sharpe who have been land-insecure to purchase land.

Brenda Sharpe. Photo courtesy Brenda Sharpe.

“Black farmers are definitely at a disadvantage because of lack of access to capital,” Rushdan said. “I saw this disparity with ready cash to purchase land. I just worry that farmers are going to be priced out.”

The hope is that being priced out won’t be the case for fund awardees. Rushdan enlisted other campaign partners, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network Board Members Erin Bevel and Shakara Tyler and Jerry Hebron, executive director of Oakland Avenue Farms, to review and score fund applications. 

After reviewing 60 applicants, 30 emerged based on factors that included their experience, relationship with the community where they will purchase land, site plan and knowledge about the land they will purchase. The fund partners will also help award winners with technical assistance, like navigating the purchasing process.

That’s good news to Sharpe, who wants to buy city-owned land across the street from her house for larger-scale growing and to keep bees to better serve her community.

Watch our video about the Detroit Black Farmers’ Land Fund

“We wanted to do this as a way to bring something back to the community, to stop the blight,” Sharpe said, noting blocks of unoccupied land. “We’ve turned it into a little something in a corner of nothing.”

Connection is a key ideal behind the fund. “It’s not just about farming,” Rushdan said. “There is a legacy in land ownership. It’s a continuation of generational wealth building.”

Because of the success and need for the fund, the partners plan to continue it. Hebron said: “We are making a difference and coming back next year bigger and better.”


1.   Olivia Hubert

2.  Travis Peters

3.  Roxanne and Donnie Jones

4.  Marc Peeples

5.  Willie Patmon

6.  Deena Allen

7.  Michael Morris Erin Cole

8. Akello Karamoko

9.  Brenda Foster

10.  Tracy Harris

11.   Iman Payne

12.  Dazmonique Carr

13.  Ozie Carlisle

14.  Linda Kay Pruitt

15.   Piper Carter

16.  Winnie Atieno Nyar Kasagam Imbuchi

17.   Nan Chang Springer

18.  Yusef Shakur

19.  Tharmond Ligon

20. Karen Knox

21.  Marion Rutland

22. Ebony Williams

23. Tamara Toole

24. Thesnelia Tansil

25.  Rhea McCauley

26. Dana Dacres

27.  Detra Ward

28. Omar McCray

29. Isha Johnson

30. Patrice Brown

Rhonda J. Smith, a lifelong Detroiter who resides in the Russell Woods-Sullivan area, where she has served on the neighborhood association board, written for its newsletter, organized activities in its parks and provided residents with tax foreclosure prevention information. With a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in communication, she has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. Her work has appeared in outlets including The Detroit News, Newsday, Chicago Tribune and Wayne County Community College District publications. She was a 2019 Detour Detroit Emerging Voices Fellow.