Sep 12, 2023 - News

Detroit hires first urban agriculture director

New director of agriculture Tepfirah Rushdan stands at a podium smiling in front of other officials and a garden, with brick buildings in the background.

New director of urban agriculture Tepfirah Rushdan stands in front of City Council member Fred Durhall III, Kathryn Underwood, Mayor Mike Duggan, council member Scott Benson and city COO Brad Dick. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Mayor Mike Duggan's office announced the appointment of Tepfirah Rushdan as the city's new director of urban agriculture Monday, joining a handful of cities with that role.

Why it matters: Neighborhood residents want to use Detroit's vast amount of vacant land for more than commercial development.

  • Officials said Monday that having an urban agriculture director is a first step in providing more opportunities for residents to start their own urban farms.

State of play: Rushdan will serve as a liaison to the city, relaying issues urban farmers face on the ground. She said Monday she intends to form an advisory committee to help with the process.

Zoom in: Rushdan, 43, who has the word "decolonize" tattooed on her left wrist, is deeply rooted in the local urban farming community.

What they're saying: "She has a quiet demeanor, but don't be fooled Mr. Mayor: She will speak truth to power," Kathryn Underwood, who's been involved in local urban agriculture policy for years, said at Monday's press conference.

  • "She already has!" a member of Duggan's administration interjected.

Between the lines: Officials say communicating among city departments like BSEED will be a main function of the new position, which is now under the mayor's office.

  • Rushdan told reporters she wasn't expecting to be appointed to the role before meeting with Duggan to negotiate an urban farm exemption to the mayor's proposed Land Value Tax plan.
  • She says urban farms will now receive a 100 mil discount under the plan to keep land tax rates the same.

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