KALAMAZOO, MI — A new farm and food network is looking to bring more representation to Kalamazoo’s food ecosystem.

Remi Harrington created Zoo City this year to fill the racial gap left in agriculture. The most recent Census Agriculture report from 2017 shows that Black farmers make up 1.4% of the country’s 3.4 million producers.

Similarly, Black farmers in Michigan make up less than 2% of statewide producers.

Harrington sees Zoo City as a pathway for the Black community to participate in both land ownership and the food economy — something she says is part of their cultural history.

“Black people came to America to tend the land, to be stewards of land, and we come from agrarian culture,” she said. “The fact that we cannot participate in the industry ecosystem in that way, it’s a travesty.”

For Harrington, being a steward of her own land isn’t just about the historical roots of her ancestors but also her immediate family and the agency its given her as a single mother.

Being able to literally get her hands dirty and grow her own food while teaching her daughter about the environment has been both empowering and therapeutic, she said.

In 2014, she began work on Tegan’s Hopeful Storybook Garden, named after her daughter. The Jackson Street community garden came to life two years later as a project of Harrington’s nonprofit The Urban Folk Art Exploratory.

The Storybook Garden is no longer operational but Harrington’s vision for the land and the neighborhood has taken new shape in the Zoo City project.

Throughout the Edison neighborhood Harrington has plans for a food cooperative, an educational space and a micro-nursery with raised planter beds for rent.

Through Zoo City, Harrington is looking to tackle equity in the food industry from a neighborhood, city and