DETROIT – A documentary from a pair of Dutch filmmakers about urban farming at a Detroit school for pregnant teens and young mothers is getting wider recognition as the school’s program faces the prospect of being uprooted.

Mascha and Manfred Poppenk made “Grown in Detroit” first for Dutch public television and began screening it last year. It focuses on the Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women, which has its own working farm.

“This is really a film Americans should see,” Mascha Poppenk said. “They need to see there are good things going on in Detroit.”

The building that houses Catherine Ferguson could be closed in June and its program moved to another one about a mile away. It’s part of a plan announced in March by district emergency financial manager Robert Bobb to close 44 schools.

Detroit Public Schools, which is fighting years of declining enrollment and a $219 million budget deficit, closed 29 schools before the start of classes last fall and shuttered 35 buildings about three years ago.

A final decision on closings is expected today. It’s unclear what would happen to the farm at Catherine Ferguson if the building closes.

Mascha Poppenk first got to know Detroit about 20 years ago as an exchange student living in Michigan. After making the film with her husband, she has returned to the city regularly and entertains thoughts of moving to Detroit one day.

“The real stories are right there with the people,” she said. “It don’t see a lot of films that give that voice.”

The 60-minute film focuses on some of the school’s about 300 students, who come from across the city to attend classes, as well as the teachers who helped establish the school’s farm. The girls learn not only about agriculture while tending to the farm and its animals, but also about nutrition and business.

Catherine Ferguson also serves as a day care, with infants and young children traveling with their mothers to school.

The film recently was shown in conjunction with the national Farm to Cafeteria conference in Detroit.

It’s expected to be available on DVD in July and may be seen on the film’s website with a “pay what you want” option.

Earlier this year, the filmmakers were recognized for their work in Detroit with the Community Empowerment Film Award from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a consumer advocacy group in Washington.


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