Dozens of American cities are shrinking. Detroit and Cleveland have both lost more than half of their populations since 1950, as have many smaller cities like Akron and Gary. The emptying out of the cities leaves lots of vacant land -- more than 40 square miles in Detroit -- that could be used for a lot of different purposes.
One of the most successful projects of recent years is the Ohio City Farm, just across the river from downtown Cleveland. The farm grows heirloom vegetables on 6 acres of land and sells them both at its own farm stand and from a booth in the historic West Side Market. Much of the labor is provided by refugees from the third world who already know a lot about raising vegetables, and might otherwise be on welfare. The idea is that they will teach native Clevelanders how to do the work. In some ways the project sounds like a progressive boondoggle, featuring organic farming, help for refugees, training for the unemployed, and so on, but people like the vegetables and so far it seems to be working. And, hey, these cities need to try something.