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Detroit Farm and Garden

1759 21st Street
Detroit, Michigan 48216

Jeff Klein

By Dan Jones
June 6, 2014

“People needed materials. I was the guy with the truck,” explains Jeff Klein when asked about the genesis of his baby Detroit Farm and Garden. “Through my work as a landscape architect I was designing and building stuff in Detroit – pocket parks and community gardens spaces, things like that. We would run short on materials [and] we would have to ride to the suburbs to get them. We were doing projects in the city yet we didn't have the resources available. It really affected our productivity,” he says with a vaguely troubled look.
For those also in need of the services provided by a garden center in the city of Detroit, this problem has been alleviated by Jeff Klein and his business partner Andy Ray at their unabashedly cool-looking space next to the 555 Gallery on 21st Street sandwiched between Vernor and Bagley in the heart of Southwest Detroit. Klein has been trying to build with the community; digging in, so to speak, where the needs of many in the city and his own passions have found an intersection.
Detroit Farm and Garden is visible from the street with a largish parking lot and a vintage truck often tucked into one of the corners. The building itself seems very suited towards utility (owing some of its looks to fact that it was once a jail) with its high ceilings and reclaimed wood forming partitions between many of its products. The product line is diverse, including Vermiculite, bulk gravel, chicken feed, and soaps made in the community; there is an array of products that will suit most consumers' needs. What you will not find at DFG is pretense or (if they can help it) corporatism.
Klein’s circuitous route to his vocation began at MSU where he received a degree in landscape architecture. This choice of concentration implanted in Klein a lifelong passion in our natural environment and people’s interaction with it. Open for three years, Klein's labor of love known as Detroit Farm and Garden has roots going back fifteen years, just after receiving his degree, when his landscape company, Classic (named after his beloved orange 1970 pickup), got off of the ground. Continually having no real options for landscaping and agricultural supplies inside the city, Klein was driven to take matters into his own hands and forged the evolving face of DFG.
Klein is adamant about being a part of his community and that ethos affects his actions in the business. “We support Organically Done, a fertilizer company in Pontiac,” Klein says. “We could carry any large garden fertilizer company, but that doesn’t make us unique [or] contribute to a growing economy of small, quality and accountable businesses.” He operates his business this way because of a deep concern for his corner of Detroit and, more generally, the whole city. “We need people to support our community, and we need to support theirs” Klein says seriously, “...and part of the answer is to bring the accessibility of resources back to our area.”

The fact that DFG is in Southwest Detroit resonates strongly with Klein. Not just as a resident of the area but as a contributing member of the community. “Southwest [Detroit] has remained a strong community; we have homeowners and families around us. We continue to reach out to the Spanish-speaking population right around us by printing bilingual outreach materials, and we even recorded a Spanish language ad on La Mejor [Highland Park-based Spanish language radio].”
Additionally, DFG has a variety of free classes this summer that range in topic from farming to fermentation to composting. Engaging the community is truly the priority for Jeff through DFG. “We cannot be here without our local patrons.”  In Detroit, the variety of people and organizations that can make use of DFG’s resources is quite broad. Homeowners who are doing their own weekend landscaping and gardening are one group in need of DFG’s services. Active proponents of the exploding urban agriculture movement also need the resources. Even the odd contractor who may be doing work all over the metro area now has another option. “We need all of ‘em,” says Klein. “We recognize the city of Detroit as our focal point.” 

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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