Why “Pingree” Farms?
Hazen Stuart Pingree was born in Maine in 1840, the son of Jasper and Adeline Pingree. He attended school in Maine until he was 14 when he moved to Massachusetts and started working in a cotton factory. A few years later he got a job as a leather cutter in a shoe factory where he worked until 1862 when he enlisted in the Union Army to fight in the Civil War.
During the war he fought on the front lines and was even captured and held prisoner by the Confederates. He managed to escape and return to his regiment with which he fought many more battles before finding himself present at the old Appomattox Courthouse when General Lee surrendered. After the war ended he moved to Detroit where he happily returned to the shoe business.
Over the years he became a successful business man and was well known in the city of Detroit. In 1889 he was elected mayor on a platform of exposing corruption in city contracts and became a popular politician know as “The Idol of the People”.
During the depression of 1893, Pingree expanded public welfare programs, initiated public works for the unemployed, built new schools, parks, and public baths. He gained national recognition through his “potato patch plan,” a systematic use of vacant city land for gardens which would produce food for the city’s poor. In 1896 1,700 families, almost 50% of all families on public relief, were enrolled in the Potato Patch Plan.
Through his creative use of city land, thousands of people were fed during one of the countries worst economic depressions to date. Pingree later went on to become Governor of Michigan but died in 1901 of peritonitis while still in office.
It is his ingenuity and perseverance that inspire us here at Pingree Farms to take vacant city land and help it to become a place where fresh produce can be picked, where farm animals roam and where new life is blooming.