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School's organic farm inspires film

Lots of people want to make movies in Detroit…we're a great backdrop for sci-fi thrillers (The Island) or dramas that need a gritty backdrop (Gran Torino).

But not many filmmakers make movies ABOUT this notorious city. That is why Grown in Detroit, a documentary by two Dutch filmmakers, is so impressive.

If you missed its recent public-television debut, Grown in Detroit is a one-hour documentary about Catherine Ferguson Academy, a Detroit Public School dedicated to helping pregnant and parenting teens complete their high-school education.

More than 300 girls and their children attend the school. One of the many things that make the Academy different is the farm they started. The girls grow organic vegetables, raise fruit trees, tend to honey bees, take care of animals. The goal is to feed these families both body and soul. They sell the extra harvest at Eastern Market, the area's beloved historic public marketplace.

So how did a husband and wife from the Netherlands hear about this urban garden half a world away? Believe it or not, filmmaker Mascha Poppenk was an exchange student in Michigan some 20 years ago, and she was in town visiting her host family and friends when she heard of the school.

In Detroit alone, more than 3,000 pregnant teens will drop out of high school each year. Yet those lucky ones who get in thrive at the Academy, which has an astonishing graduation rate of 90 percent.

Mascha and Manfred Poppenk filmed in Detroit for almost three months. They immersed themselves in the city and the farm, ignoring friends' worries about their safety.

“We cannot be any whiter, the three of us, but they let us in,” Mascha Poppenk said of herself, husband and their camera woman Suzan van Steenwijk. “We felt so welcome. Everyone was so warm. They let us into their lives. It was an honor.”

In fact, the Poppenks applied for a green card to live in the United States; more specifically, they want to settle in Detroit.

“We love that city. It is the city of tomorrow, I totally believe in that,” Mascha said.

The film was well received in Holland, Mascha said. Next month, the couple will screen the film again, this time at the Austin Film Festival in Texas.

“We need to create a buzz because we want to come back and make more films,” Mascha said.

To check out the film, go to the Poppenks' web site. You will need a password to see the film. I think it's worth the effort. Check it out here.

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  • 1

    Oh I am so happy to see this blog post! The school and the film deserve lots of attention. I grew up in Detroit and am fascinated by the impending rebirth of the city.

  • 2

    [...] teen news – local(∆) and national  Documentary profiles school’s organic farm – Grown in Detroit features Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public school for pregnant girls [...]

  • 3

    I wanted to express my gratitude on producing such a wonderful film about an oasis of hope in the city I love. Your naked lens focused on the perseverance of these teachers, administrators and most importantly the students/mothers to overcome obstacles to achieve a better tomorrow. Thanks for shinning a light on those beautiful souls that the rest of the media have written off.

  • 4

    Such a fantastic story - thank you for taking notice!
    it's often hard to find positive stories about Detroit...even in the local media.
    The film is has such a powerful message about determination and perseverance. Everyone needs to see this film!

  • 5

    This story is to me, touches on exactly what this city, actually what the whole world needs more of. Selfless people that give their time and resources for the greater benefit of others.

  • 6

    This is a fantastic story and film about someone who is truly in service, giving back and making a difference. So refreshing. Thank you for making this film. Sincerely, Laura Klein Go see this film!

  • 7

    A must see documentary! So moving, informative and beautifully made. More people need to see what is truely going on in Detroit.

  • 8

    [...] from [...]

  • 9

    Bas de Groot.
    Cityfarmer WALDEN21 Rotterdam Netherlands
    Initiater Edibel Rotterdam
    Teacher Farming for Health

    Grown in Detroit is first a social document, that show the desperation an struggle for a future of a group young Mom's in a dying area in the modern western world. At the other side is a document of hope en shows us the quality of agriculture as a development tool in a Urban Area. Urban Agriculture has a lot of possible strategies. The strategies that is presented in this documentary are the education and development strategy beside the survival strategy.
    We can say one thing for sure: This Documentary has done Urban Agriculture in the Netherlands a lot of good Publicity and put Urban Agriculture on the Map. We are sure that the people in the US can benefit the same way. So go watch this in your local cinema. Or organize a screening your self!

  • 10

    This was a truly eye opening and inspiring film. It is especially poignant given the current state of the city. Urban farming, and even just localizing our economy is more important than ever. Out of this economic tragedy comes hope!

  • 11

    This is an amazing story on so many levels. It is about girls, young women learning how to farm. It is about hope in a place once seen as a cast off from economic progress.It is about girls and women casting off the stigma of teenage pregnancy and discovering a very hopeful and positive future growing and marketing fresh organic food while making a real investment in themselves and the future of detroit. Now if this can be done in detroit, a northern city with a very money poor school system I challenge anyone to say that it can't bre done anywhere in the United States. For the future of our schools and communities this film is a shining example of what can be done right when teachers and students and a community work togethrer to imagine what is possible.

  • 12

    [...] go out to Mascha and Manfred Poppenk, the two Dutch documentary filmmakers who created "Grown in Detroit." Their film about the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, which educates pregnant teens and young [...]

  • 13

    Terrific! I'm going to look to see if I can order a copy of the film for our library collection here at Ithaca College.

  • 14

    [...] [...]

  • 15

    [...] don't forget about Grown in Detroit. It's a great one as [...]

  • 16

    [...] email the other day…You may remember Mascha Poppenk, the Dutch filmmaker who co-created “Grown in Detroit,” a documentary about urban farming, a school for pregnant teens and [...]

  • 17

    I just heard that "Grown in Detroit" is on the list of possible school closures. A lot of us want to do something to prevent the school from closing - what can we do?

  • 18

    CFA, the school featured in the film, is on the list to be closed or relocated... I'm waiting for Ms Andrews, principal of the school, to let us know what we should do to help. She knows best. In the meantime you can let everyone know why you think this school is so special. Right here on the Time blog... Thanks!

    filmmaker 'Grown in Detroit'

  • 19

    What an outrage! CFA is an amazing school with amazing teachers and students. Where will these young ladies who want to learn but need childcare go now? Tell me where and when to show up with my picket sign. Or where to donate money. Or who to write a letter to. We can't let this happen. We need to hold on to the few great things that are left in Detroit and the Catherine Ferguson Academy is one of them.

  • 20

    I saw the film the other night & was very moved! After blogging about it, I learned that the school was closing. How upsetting.

    What kind of programs will be in place? Does anyone care?

    The young ladies are already marginalized because of their race & economics. Add on a baby to that & it all looks ultra tough!


    • 20.1

      Last I heard was they were talking about moving the school instead of closing it -

      This link is Ms Andrew's statement closing/relocation CFA (principal of CFA, school featured in 'Grown in Detroit')

      but things are still in the talk stage, so I wouldn't be surprised it it changes again. Especially since so many people care so much!

  • 21

    Thx for posting that ninthgirl! Ironically, I was at an event with Robert Bobb, and so wanted to ask him about this but he was bombarded with requests not to close other schools. It was quite interesting.

    • 21.1

      It's great to hear that lots of people are getting involved. If I lived anywhere near Detroit, I would have been there too.

  • 22

    [...] – at home and at school. More importantly, you can see “Grown in Detroit” by the amazing Manfred and Mascha. Attendees aged 18 and older, please. Tickets are $10 in advance/$15 at the door (per [...]

  • 23

    mouse click the next article

    School’s organic farm inspires film - The Detroit Blog -

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