Hazen S. Pingree’s potato patch inspired the nation to feed the hungry.
He was the greatest mayor Detroit would ever know. Hazen S. Pingree, an avowed social reformer and enemy of major corporations and monopolies, fought during his 1890-1897 tenure to expose corruption and negotiate fair costs for Detroiters. But Pingree is best remembered for his potato patch. The Panic of 1893 hit Detroit hard, and by late 1894, there was no money left to care for the poor. Pingree mounted an unprecedented public works campaign and opened the city’s massive holdings of vacant land for garden plots and potato patches. “Pingree’s potato patches broke the back of hunger,” the Detroit Free Press later wrote, according to Historic Detroit. “They were nationally acclaimed and copied. They revealed a city of boundless energy and industry unwilling to live on doles.”