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Owner of Detroit's only cider mill faces jail time in fight with city

Posted at 6:08 AM, Apr 05, 2024

A farmer in Detroit responsible for opening Detroit's only cider mill and the country's only Black-owned cider mill could soon be forced to close its doors permanently.

Leandra King, the once celebrated entrepreneur and farmer, is facing jail time for refusing to give up her animals.

Born and raised in the City, life has never been easy for King. She grew up in foster care, lived in juvenile detention homes and got into trouble with the law.

As an adult, she cycled through several career paths, flipping houses and doing hair until she found her calling.

“I just kind of did some soul searching and realized that nature is where I belong," King said.

It started with a small kitchen garden in her backyard. Now, she owns nearly five acres of land on Woodrow Wilson and St. Lawrence St. on Detroit's west side.

"When I thought back to my happiest moment as a kid and it was at the cider mill," she said.

So she planted over 130 fruit trees and opened the Detroit Farm and Cider.

"We had between 600-800 people every single day," King said.

She decided to temporarily close the business to get official certification with the City.

"That’s when we reached out to zoning. We were asking them all the questions and got shut down," King said.

Four years later, despite support from the City initially, they have yet to be allowed to re-zone or reopen.

“Has the city given you a reason?" I asked.

"No, they haven’t," she said.

"I have no comprehension of why the city is so committed to shutting down this woman," her attorney, Matthew Dupree, said.

Dupree will represent King in court on Monday. She is now facing criminal charges for owning livestock without the proper permits in Detroit. If found guilty, she will be sentenced to two years probation, a $500 fine, or 90 days in jail.

King plans to deny probation and finds, which would effectively shut down her business permanently, so she is preparing to leave behind her three girls for three months.

“Why is this worth the fight?" I asked.

Because this is what saved my life. This is what stopped me from going down dark paths," she said. "In my experience, when you’re doing the right thing, things work out.”

We did get a response from the city. Detroit Corporation Counsel Conrad Mallet. It says:

“City of Detroit ordinances cannot be ignored simply because the person violating the ordinance is well-intentioned. In the past Animal control has removed horses, goats and other animals from the property. We are a City of roughly 650,000 people. The people who live across the street from the non-licensed property have rights. They have the right to enjoy their homes free from animal smells and noise. Continual violation of our ordinances ultimately will create a consequence where fines and jail time is a possibility. We are protecting all of our citizens and we are disregarding no one’s rights.”

7 Action News asked how many, if any complaints have been yielded against Detroit Farm and Cider, and have yet to receive an answer.