Published: Sept. 8, 2015

Alumnus sparks a spirit of cultivation in Detroit

By: Samantha Ward MSUAFRE wardsam2@msu.eduContact(s): Ryan Kilcoyne College of Arts and Letters office: (517) 884-4478

For some outsiders, Detroit neighborhoods appear burdened, disheartened and broken. But Michigan State alumnus Anthony Hatinger knows otherwise, and has joined the movement to empower opportunity within Detroit communities using his determination, knowledge, and passion. 

From Classroom to Community

“It’s always been a place of innovation and a place of great challenges,” says Hatinger, who has seen Detroit communities and their challenges first hand. As Central Detroit Christian’s Garden Production Manager, he has been able to put his knowledge from MSU into real-world, community building experiences. 

Combining horticulture with religious studies may have seemed unusual to some, but for what Hatinger had in mind, it made perfect sense. “I was able to understand cross-cultural ties in organizations and in people. I was learning about all these different religions, learning all these different cultures.”

From his bachelor’s degree in religious studies, minor in horticulture and specialization in sustainable agriculture and food systems, Hatinger was extended the opportunity to find a career he was passionate about. “I got to use my education in a different sort of way, to create an urban discipleship,” he says. Combining his knowledge of gardening, and his broad understanding of different cultures gave him a fresh perspective in working for communities in need.

Bringing Back Detroit

Hatinger’s employer Central Detroit Christian is a faith-based nonprofit organization that serves Detroit communities by pairing education and employment with economic development efforts to reinvigorate local neighborhoods. Hatinger oversees garden production at several of CDC’s for-profit businesses that not only employ more than 100 people, but also nurture the area with fresh food products and restoration materials. In addition, CDC redistributes the profits made from the sale of these resources back into the community.

“We’re teaching ag-tech skills, market skills, sales skills and weaving a tapestry to attack food access issues on a variety of levels,” he says. One of Hatinger’s main responsibilities is overseeing the CDC Farm and Fishery, an indoor self-sustaining aquaponics center that brings fresh fish and vegetables to a neighborhood severely lacking in fresh foods. The facility acts as the first and only licensed fish farm in the Detroit area, and gives its surrounding community a point of pride. This center is just one of the examples of how new, innovative ideas are helping to nurture Detroit communities.

“The impact that this gardening work has had in the neighborhood has a lot of different roots. People want to start their own gardens in their yard; they want to start their own composting programs.” As a result of CDC’s work — and Hatinger’s knowledge — Detroit community members have gotten excited about new, stimulating practices. “It’s a spirit. It’s a spirit of cultivation that’s happening within people.”

Being in Detroit and getting hands-on experiences working with a misunderstood area has had a big impact on Hatinger, too. “There’s a lot of spiritual and emotional shifts just that Detroit has had on me.  My experiences here have changed a lot about how I want to live my life and how I want to be a leader for the next generation. It’s been a blessing.”

Reprinted with permission from the College of Arts and Letters