Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Detroit Central Market Coming to Life

October 20, 2020 Think THF

Man in blue button-down shirt and khaki pants walks along wooden fence with large white banner reading "Coming Soon: The Vegetable Building from Detroit's Central Market"

An amazing thing happened during the spring and summer of 2020, while The Henry Ford was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of dedicated individuals formed a new donor society, the Carver-Carson Society, and raised more than six times what was needed to bring back to life the Detroit Central Market in Greenfield Village.

How in the world did they do this?

Well, prior to the pandemic shutdown, The Henry Ford was still $200,000 shy of reaching its $5 million fundraising goal. The Henry Ford has always had big plans for the market, which was built in 1860 and is considered one of the oldest surviving urban farmer's markets of its kind in the country. The Henry Ford's vision is for the market to become a world-class convening center and hub of innovation by attracting farmers, food entrepreneurs and thought leaders to help educate and engage the public on critical issues, including food security, regenerative agriculture and environmental sustainability. That vision was in danger of being significantly delayed when The Henry Ford had to close its doors in March. This all changed when a group of dedicated donors answered the call to support the market project by forming the Carver-Carson Society and creating plans for The Henry Ford's first-ever virtual fundraiser, Farm to Fork.

Screenshot with 1-2 video chat participants in each of four quadrants

On August 20, 2020, Farm to Fork aired live over Vimeo, creating a virtual show filled with interviews, films, cooking demonstrations and engaging conversations. The event was co-chaired by Emily Ford, Lauren Bush Lauren and The Henry Ford's president and CEO, Patricia Mooradian, and raised over $800,000. This thought-provoking and entertaining event helped not only to cross the fundraising finish line but to surpass its original goal.

One of the highlights was the first Carver-Carson Conversation, featuring an intimate conversation moderated by Debra Reid, curator of agriculture and the environment. Special guest panelists included legendary chef and restaurateur Alice Waters; her daughter, designer and author Fanny Singer; event co-chair Lauren Bush Lauren; and Melvin Parson, a community farmer and The Henry Ford's first Entrepreneur in Residence. Their lively discussion touched on important issues around food security, food equity, regenerative farming and the need for local food environments and farmers. We plan to have many more Carver-Carson Conversations, both virtually and in person, in the future.

Woman seated and man standing in front of a curved screen or backdrop

We now have the resources required not only to rebuild the market but to create innovative, thought-provoking programming to help us look toward the future — from Carver-Carson Conversations to an edible schoolyard in Greenfield Village, where students from Detroit and across the country can engage with our working farms.

There have been so many wonderful donors who have come together over the past several years to make this project a reality, including early leadership supporters The Americana Foundation, A. Alfred Taubman, Chelsea Milling Co., the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Raymond C. Smith Fund, Mort Harris, the Meijer Foundation and Masco Corp. The project continued to gain momentum as community and business leaders Don and Mary Kosch contributed a generous challenge grant to double any donation made on Giving Tuesday 2019, leading to a groundswell of support from the community.

We look forward to gathering with you at the future opening of the Detroit Central Market in Greenfield Village. Together, we are making it possible for the stories and traditions of the market to continue to flourish, grow and shape a more sustainable future.

Follow @thehenryford on social channels for updates on the Detroit Central Market, and visit to learn more about this new donor society.

Additional Readings:

Detroit Central Market, The Henry Ford Effect, philanthropy, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, food, COVID 19 impact, agriculture

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