Friday, August 01, 2008

Urban Farming Diaspora

By way of Youngstown contacts, urban farming in Braddock is the star of a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story. Youngstown is learning from Braddock and vise versa. Since my angle is the geographic mobility of talent, one part of the article stood out to me:

Braddock Farms' vegetable garden relies on raised-bed construction, intensive planting techniques and organic methods of growing. The farmer in the dell is a young professional, project manager Jeff Jaeger. He studied sustainable systems at Slippery Rock University, where his emphasis was on agroecology. After a stint in Colorado, he moved back when he heard about the many greening projects in Pittsburgh. Urban gardening appealed to him, with the bonus of being near family and friends while applying his skills. He plans the strategy for planting, assigns tasks and oversees building projects.

I'm interested to know how, exactly, Mr. Jaeger heard about the doings in Pittsburgh and decided to move back in order to get involved. Pure speculation on my part, but the program network at Slippery Rock University might have been the catalyst. I think if more expatriates understood the opportunities and value proposition of Rust Belt urban revitalization, then more talent would return to the region.

I am reminded of a wedding I attended in Iowa City earlier this summer. The bride is from Detroit and I spoke with her about the growing energy of change in the Postindustrial Heartland. The work of GLUE and other redevelopment efforts intrigued her and she expressed a desire to live with her husband back in Detroit, getting involved with the various projects there. I'm confident that there is a knowledge deficit in the Rust Belt Diaspora about what is happening in the homeland. Add to that the insecurity of how to get plugged back in and we might explain most of the barrier to boomerang migration.

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