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Burnside Farm

3341 Burnside Street
Detroit, Michigan 48212

Kate Daughdrill

By Matthew Lewis
August 22, 2013

Just north of Hamtramck in a neighborhood known as "Banglatown" (so named for its sizeable Bengali population) is a stub of a street called Burnside. At first glance, Burnside seems like an ordinary street you'd find anywhere in Hamtramck or the parts of Detroit bordering it—until you follow it to its dead end. There, a few vacant lots have been transformed into the Burnside Farm, a remarkably mature-looking agriculture operation, despite it being only two years old.
Burnside Farm is a place where its founder Kate Daughdrill, artist and farmer, finds the intersection of her interests. "It is the hub of my creative practice. I value art connecting people and food connecting people. It's a place to live and work," says Daughdrill, who lives next to the farm in a house she is renovating. "This is sort of a big studio," she says, looking around from her porch.
The farm serves not only as Daughdrill's creative hub, but also as a social hub for the neighborhood. Weekly meals are hosted there for neighbors and all sorts of people have become involved. "We get to know and connect with each other around food," Kate says.
Daughdrill hasn't always been a farmer. She developed her interest in agriculture after visiting Thomas Jefferson's gardens at Monticello while attending the University of Virginia, the university that Jefferson founded. After that, Kate moved to the Detroit area to work on a Master of Fine Arts degree at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
While there, Kate developed an artistic obsession with garages. She had been using a garage in Southwest Detroit where she lived as a creative meeting space with friends and neighbors. "I'm interested in the intersection between private space and accessible public space," says Daughdrill. It was in that spirit that she decided to move a garage to the campus of Cranbrook as an art project, where it would be used as a sort of creative commons. In return for building him a fence, Daughdrill's neighbor gave her his garage, which was deconstructed, transported to Cranbrook in a stack of pieces, and reconstructed in a parking lot with the help of collaborators Charlie O'Geen and James Hadrill.

The garage ended up being the thing that connected her with her current collaborator, Mira Burack, who happened to be taking a walk at Cranbrook and noticed the garage. She connected with Daughdrill and the two came up with the idea for the Edible Hut, a community gathering space about to open in Calimera Park in Detroit's Osborn neighborhood that has a living, edible roof with an oculus, inspired by Jefferson's rotunda at the University of Virginia, and walls built from the components of the same garage that brought Kate and Mira together.
This year, Daughdrill was awarded the Kresge Foundation's Visual Arts Fellowship, which recognizes her work over the years, including her work as co-founder of Detroit Soup along with Jessica Hernandez in addition to her recent collaboration with Burack, the Edible Hut.

In the time between Cranbrook and the Edible Hut, however, Daughdrill re-discovered her interest in farming. She got connected to the Banglatown neighborhood through friends living there and moved into her house on Burnside. She started the Burnside Farm on the vacant lots at the end of her block.
At first, farming was just a hobby. Then, one day while she was composting, Kate had an epiphany that farming was equally as important a part of her identity as being an artist.

Since then, Kate has started a new project at the farm with neighbors and collaborators Jen David and Jeffrey Thomas, both of whom are also artists—the Burnside Farm CSA (community supported agriculture). But this isn't your ordinary CSA. It's a "creative CSA" through which its twenty or so shareholders, a diverse group of people from around the city of Detroit, receive a bundle of "creative produce" each week, including ordinary vegetables plus art objects curated by Daughdrill, David, and Thomas.

"People are supporting the Farm financially and spiritually [through the CSA]," says Daughdrill. "It's been great sharing the art of the everyday with people."

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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