On any given day, you’ll find me in Braddock, Penn., a small borough in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh.
If you know anything at all about Braddock, it’s probably that it’s a steel town that – like the U.S. steel industry itself – has fallen on hard times.
I’m a farmer here, working full time, growing produce in the city.
I started working at Braddock Farms a little more than a year ago, after moving to Pittsburgh from Washington, D.C. I like the idea that agriculture makes you self-sufficient. And if there’s one thing Braddock needs, it’s self-sufficiency.
There are people here who are strongly determined to get this town back on its feet. Some, like me, are transplants. Others, though, are lifelong residents. All want better times for Braddock.
I work at Grow Pittsburgh. We grow vegetables, fruits and flowers – all naturally, using no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.
If you visit between late spring and early fall, you might see our weekly farm stand in Braddock, selling our organic produce at prices you’d normally pay for conventionally grown produce.
We also sell our produce, at the prices you’d expect, to a handful of restaurants in and around Pittsburgh. These commercial sales help make the farm more financially sustainable.
Braddock Farms is a big attraction, bringing people into town who might not otherwise visit. They come to see the farm and, in the process, see the town, as well. We hope this creates more interest in Braddock as a whole. Folks who stop by really seem to like what’s going on – this green oasis in an industrial town that has seen better days.
As for Levi’s® and its new marketing campaign, featuring the people of Braddock instead of models? Well, it’s nice to see support coming in from the outside. I’ve been watching the community center construction, which the company is helping finance. And it looks great.
Ultimately, the fate of the town depends on the people here, not outside help. The exposure that Levi’s® brings will, I hope, be a catalyst that attracts more people to town who are “ready to work.” There’s plenty of room!
What’s going on in Braddock is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, but it’s not plain to see on the surface. Folks here are just living their everyday lives – pushing to make things better for themselves and each other, because they care about their community.
There is not some grand revolution taking place, it won’t happen in a few weeks, months, or years, but with a whole lot of work and care, and each of us playing our own part, it can happen.