University of Connecticut

Events Calendar

Geography colloquium - Ruth Glasser

Friday, October 27, 2017
12:20pm – 1:15pm

Storrs Campus
AUST 434

Brass City, Grass Roots: The Persistence of Farming in Industrial Waterbury, CT, 1870-1980

This talk is based on a book in progress on urban agriculture in the city of Waterbury, Connecticut from the late 19th century to the late 20th century. While most of the literature on farming assumes that it died in industrialized cities by the time of the Civil War, this project shows that farming persisted not merely as a residual activity but one that existed in a dynamic relationship with the growing industrial city. The project is not just an urban but an immigrant/ethnic history. It provides new insight into the food production activities of immigrants in this New England city [and by extension, others in the Northeast]. The work shows that not all immigrants in the East were involved in what we think of as the more urban occupations of factory work, construction, and store proprietorship. While most literature about immigrant farmers portrays them in the Midwest, Plains, and further west, this book project restores their East Coast history. The project challenges most historical narratives of farming and community gardening as well by suggesting that there was an ambiguous line between farming and gardening. It shows that subsistence gardening often took place informally, not just in the confines of war, economic crisis, or episodic educational fads. Moreover, oral history interviews show that food producers had varying perceptions of themselves as farmers, gardeners, or entrepreneurs.

The project also uses GIS maps to show the placement of farmers and other food growing, processing, and marketing firms in a series of snapshots spanning nearly a century. Study of the landscape, including the still existing physical remnants of agricultural activity, are integral to this work, which spans history and historical geography.

Ruth Glasser is an Assistant Professor in Residence in Urban Studies at the University of Connecticut's Waterbury campus. This year she is working on this book project as a scholar at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute.


Scott Stephenson

Geography Department (primary), Anthropology Department, History Department, Humanities Institute, UConn Master Calendar, Urban and Community Studies

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