Growing up in the Netherlands, Riet Schumack dreamed of becoming a farmer. But when she married and moved to innercity Detroit, she wondered if her dream was dead. "I hate big cities," Schumack says, "so when the Lord called us [here]—there was no way around it—we spent many years questioning God."

Detroit isn't exactly an agricultural paradise. Drive across the city, built for 2 million residents, and signs of decline are everywhere. Some 200,000 lots are vacant or foreclosed, and even city-owned land is overgrown and strewn with litter and refuse.

But all the empty and unused land makes Detroit an urban gardener's heaven. In the past decade alone, the number of gardens has grown from under 50 to over 1,400, as more residents—including Schumack—see opportunity in the citywide land crisis. Schumack says Detroiters involved in the urban farming movement—which has blossomed in other metro areas as well—are typically either New Agers or Christians. But the Christians pursue farming for different reasons, and through a variety of methods.

There is no shortage of blight where Schumack lives, a four-square-mile neighborhood ironically named Brightmoor. She points out which homes are abandoned, vacant, and sliding into decay. But when she reaches one of her youth gardens, she beams. In the midst of poverty, Schumack is growing vegetables to teach her neighbors about the beauty of creation and labor.

"We are created to be co-creators and stewards," she says. "If you don't give [people] something to steward, they're missing out on why they were created."

After Schumack moved to Brightmoor in 2006, she wondered how she could minister ...

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