Saturday, January 31, 2009

A laboratory for urban farms, among other things

This NYT story by David Streitfeld about Braddock, Pennsylvania explores a place that appears to have hit rock bottom-- even before the rest of the country. Braddock, population 2,912, is part of Allegheny County, the core of the greater Pittsburgh Metropolitan area. So, while Braddock might be close to being "rural" (under the U.S. Census Bureau's 2,500 population cap), it is certainly not nonmetropolitan. Nevertheless, Streitfeld's story reads a bit like an account of rural America's decline, including its population loss.

There's also a wee bit of rurality in the solution--or at least in the response. As Braddock's apparent demise has unfolded in recent years, Mayor John Fetterman, age 39 and a newcomer, has taken various innovative steps. Among them, he has "encouraged the development of urban farms on empty lots, which employ area youths and feed the community."

This story is well worth a read, not because it says something about rural America -- because it is really about a very urban place -- but for what it says about the possibility of renewal, including how that which is traditionally rural (agriculture) can play at least a small role in urban renewal.

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