Well kidlings, it's time for another round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction. As usual,  when we play this game, we begin with an item from Big Rob's stomping grounds of Flint. 


This time around something happening in Flint is not really bad, it's just a tad odd. There's a former Flint Police Training Academy building that has been shut since 2010. City officials have a $500,000 offer for the defunct property. The oddity is that the purchasers plan to turn the building into a commercial marijuana grow facility.


“It’s kind of ironic that the training facility for the police department, that used to go against marijuana, is going to possibly become a marijuana grow shop,” said a city councilman.” Now the project is being touted as a “productive use” of the building. (


While the marijuana market may be hot right now, there is one that is even hotter – dirt. In fact, dirt is such a hot commodity, the job of dirt broker (a person who finds dirt and gets it to those in need of dirt) is a sought after specialized skill set. 


Why? “With sea levels expected to rise three to six feet by the end of the century, coastal communities are moving fast to construct major shoreline projects to protect themselves. As the size of these projects expands, the primary building materials--dirt and mud --are getting scarce. Environmental experts warn that unless coastal regions begin managing their dirt and mud supply more comprehensively, the shortfall will be severe, leading to more expensive sea level rise protection and drowned wetlands.”


Who could have anticipated that there would one day be a profession called “dirt broker” and that it would have nothing to do with social media? (


Speaking of dirt, how do you know when the dirt beneath your feet is good dirt or bad dirt? No problem. All you need is some white cotton underwear. People in the U.S. and Australia are now involved in the  “Soil Your Undies Challenge.”


“Hundreds of people are burying their cotton underwear in their back gardens to dig up eight weeks later as part of a citizen science project. Cotton is made of a sugar called cellulose, making it a tasty snack for microbes and the army of other tiny decomposers that live in the soil. The state of the garments when they are retrieved will indicate the health of the microbiome. If there is not much left of the cloth, then the soil is healthy and teeming with activity. If it is mostly intact, then work is necessary to improve the situation.” (


What is grown in that good soil may affect what we feed our pets in the future. Feeding Fido and Tabby is big business. “Around sixty-seven percent of households own at least one. Companion animals lead the pack, as 63.4 million households have dogs and 42.7 million own cats.”


Simply put, pets consume a lot of meat. “If cats and dogs made up their own country, they would rank fifth in terms of meat consumption. In an effort to curb the pet food industry’s environmental impact, a small handful of startups are working to cut animal agriculture out of the equation by using cell-cultured meat. 


Some companies are experimenting with cultured mouse meat and cultured chicken protein. Now my cat will have a whole new food category to which she can turn up her nose and saunter away. (


Pets may not be the only ones dealing with meat alternatives. A disaster for humans is looming. There is a world wide chicken wing shortage. It's so bad a chicken producer in North Carolina was quoted as telling media: “What we need to develop is a four-winged chicken.”


Ah, but here's the rest of the story. “Newsweek reports that the chicken wing shortage that we’re currently experiencing is more complicated than just trying to source some extra flappers. Turns out that there are environmental repercussions to the situation which aren’t so clear right away, namely: After all the wings are gone, who’s gonna eat the rest of the chicken?”


One solution is to ship the extra chicken overseas. “Breast meat is favored in Europe, feet are in demand in China, Russians prefer dark meat, and India wants legs. That’s a lot of shipping. The meat needs to be shipped in temperature-controlled containers, which takes even more energy.”


But even when you get rid of the chicken parts, there's another problem here in this country. “The eight billion chickens we consume in America produce 86 million tons of toxic manure, much of which ends up in runoff, contaminating whatever is around it.” 


This wing thing, then, is complicated. You know, the National Chicken Council estimated that Americans consumed 1.42 billion wings during the last Super Bowl. It looks like if the chicken wing crisis continues, there may be no alternative to canceling the big game in 2022. (


Finally, “wings” of another sort may revolutionize the way food gets delivered to you. It comes from a partnership between , Wing Global Communications and the Girl Scouts.


“A Virginia Girl Scout council is offering a unique spin on contact-free cookie delivery by having the boxes distributed via drone. Customers can order their drone deliveries through the Wing app or website. The company said it is committed to delivering at least 3,000 boxes of cookies, but the number could increase based on demand.” (


The Scouts prepare the orders and Wing pilots the drones. See a Girl Scout cookie drone delivery at:


A company spokesperson says: “I expect that the future is going to have an opportunity for drones to be delivering to everyone across the country. I think this is just a really great microcosm as what that can look like as we prep for the future."

The future sure looks a little sweeter if Peanut Butter Tagalongs and Thin Mints can just fall from the sky. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and