Former Michigan State University Extension educator Mike Score recently reached a milestone in a project he has helped lead for more than four years. Mike took a leave of absence from MSU Extension in December, 2009 in order to provide leadership to a project established to develop agricultural enterprises in Detroit. Mike joined Detroit resident and entrepreneur John Hantz to help lead the formation of Hantz Farms, now called Hantz Woodlands.
The milestone Hantz Woodlands achieved was a community event held on Saturday, May 17. The organization hosted more than 1,000 volunteers who helped to plant hardwood trees on more than 20 acres of abandoned properties on Detroit’s east side. It’s hard to imagine a more long-term investment than planting an oak or other hardwood seedling, but that’s just what they did.
I had the good fortune of visiting with Mike a few weeks before their tree planting event and he gave me a tour of the properties that Hantz Woodlands has purchased. I was able to witness the tremendous efforts Mike and his team had already made to prepare the properties for planting. The volume of brush and trash that had been removed was overwhelming. And the vistas it opened turned what some might call a blighted landscape into a landscape that provides something simple but important: visual connectivity between neighbors.
Congratulations to Mike and his colleagues at Hantz Woodlands. I’m confident they will continue to engage effectively with their neighbors to strengthen prosperity and security in Michigan’s largest city. And they’re creating a model that could be emulated in other communities, both large and small.