- 1 Executive Summary
- 2 Introduction
- 3 Research Methods
- 4 Findings
- 5 Discussion and Conclusion
- 6 Appendix
- 7 References
This community-based research project is an ethnographic study, focused on documenting the changes in the Vancouver food system from the perspective of the UBC Farm. The research question is: Through the perspectives of key actors in market production, academia, community engagement and indigenous programming, how has the UBC Farm changed in the past years and how have these developments affected its position in the current Vancouver food system? To answer this research question, four key stakeholders from the UBC Farm were interviewed regarding their respective area of expertise in relation to food system changes seen at the Farm: Academia, Community Engagement, Market, and Indigenous initiatives. The interviews were compiled into an ethnographic video, which highlights the importance of community support and its involvement in maintaining the land status of the UBC Farm. Another theme that is apparent among the stakeholders is that food security cannot be achieved easily due to the complexity and intersectionality of the food system. Although efforts were made to include all aspects of the UBC Farm in this study, limitations exist in terms of the stakeholders’ relevance to discipline and time allotted for research. In the future, possible methods to minimize bias may include identifying and interviewing relevant stakeholders per field of expertise and increasing the time frame to conduct the research. Based on these results, it is recommended that the UBC Farm continues to educate students and the public about the intricate issue of food security within a food system, maintain integration of the community participation in their practice, and for this approach to be transferred to the Vancouver food system. With this approach, the food system can be reshaped to become more holistic and sensitive to the diverse cultures represented in Canada.
This research has been carried out by students from the University of British Columbia and completed as part of an assignment for Land and Food Systems (LFS) 350 for community-based experiential learning (CBEL) in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS). The CSFS has recognized a need for long-term analysis of food system epistemological changes and continuities in Vancouver within the context of food security. Our group sought to reveal changes in thought surrounding food systems at the UBC Farm (Farm) itself; our findings will be used in conjunction with Teams 19 and 20 to reveal changes in Vancouver as a whole. The Farm, located on the UBC campus, integrates agricultural and forestry disciplines and academic projects under the guidance of the CSFS as part of the LFS Faculty. Our group engaged four members of the Farm to reveal trends through a series of interviews, as laid out in the Research Methods. By bringing together these thoughts and experiences, invaluable information about changing perspectives and activities at the Farm have been compiled– critically affirming of the importance of initiatives like the Farm in addressing issues of food security (Allen, 2013).
Unlike current research where food security issues are investigated at higher levels such as British Columbia and Canada, our team’s research focus is within UBC and local communities. It is important to acknowledge that the framework of the food system impacts the level of food security experienced in the community. Today’s definition of food security maintains that individuals have access to nutritious, safe and preferable foods available at all times (Pinstrup-Andersen, 2009). Through this research and collaboration with the other teams, we hope to understand the current functioning of food systems in Vancouver and approaches to food security enhancements.
Through the perspectives of key actors in market production, academia, community engagement and indigenous programming, how has the UBC Farm changed in the past years and how have these developments affected its position in the current Vancouver food system?
Overview of Method Chosen
This research takes an ethnographic approach, as it allows us to generate questions that are open-ended and enables the stakeholders to share their unique perspectives on the changes at the Farm (Gee & Ullman, 1998). Qualitative data was collected in the form of interviews, to investigate specific events, people, and places through observation in a natural setting (Gee & Ullman, 1998). Four stakeholders were selected based on their area of expertise, duration of experience at the Farm, and availability. The four categories listed in the research question were selected based on the organization of the Farm itself.
Research Process and Evolution
Initially, a general research question was formulated, however, after discussion with our community partner, Dr. Hannah Wittman, it was refined in order to increase specificity (Appendix B.1). Ethnographic interviews were conducted as suggested by the LFS 350 Project Description. Before interviews were conducted, the Farm website was utilized to select potential stakeholders. However, our teaching assistant informed us that the stakeholders’ experience at the Farm is a crucial factor in understanding the changes at the Farm over time, therefore we asked Dr. Wittman for advice. Her recommendations included stakeholders whom she knew had worked longer at the Farm and they were Véronik Campbell from community engagement, Arthur Bomke for academia, Hannah Lewis for indigenous initiative, and Amy Frye for market aspects.
As a team of eight, we divided into four pairs. Each pair had a designated stakeholder to contact through email for interview participation, and consent was documented through an ethical responsibility form (Appendix B.3). During the interview, stakeholders were asked five general questions, which were common among all stakeholders (and Team 19 and 21) and another set of questions, specific to their area of expertise (Appendix B.2).
Upon completion of the interviews, data was managed using qualitative data analysis, which consists of data documentation, data classification, and data evaluation (Schutt, 2012). Each pair noted down what was said in the interviews to document information in textual format (Schutt, 2012). Then, the data was further categorized into specific themes that were related to our research question (Schutt, 2012). To analyze data, we identified common themes among the disciplines and evaluated their significance to provide a plausible answer to our research question (Schutt, 2012). Afterwards, interviews were compiled into a short video to highlight the key findings (Appendix A.2).
Team Responsibilities, Communication and Resources
Our team’s responsibilities consisted of interviewing the stakeholders, note-taking, and video recording. The ethical responsibilities towards the stakeholders were to respect their privacy by maintaining confidentiality and to present collected data with honesty. As a team, we communicated on Google Docs and Facebook, while E-mail was used to contact our community partner and stakeholders. Meetings and interviews were conducted in person. In addition, resources utilized were a video camera, video editing program and laptop (see Appendix B.3).
Community-Based Experiential Learning (CBEL)
Through the CBEL project, we collaborated with the Farm to investigate changes related to the four key disciplines. Through the practical experience of designing a research proposal and executing research in the community, we were able to build a positive relationship with our community partner and interact with the stakeholders to learn about the changes of the food system at Farm. In addition, Community Service Learning provided insight about farming and strengthened our understanding of the connection between food system issues and the Farm.
All findings came from analysis of interview responses (Appendix C, Table 1), which revealed multiple recurring themes. Themes included the importance of community engagement and integration of disciplines to address the challenges of food system sustainability.
Majority of interview subjects addressed the challenges of the current food system as being extremely complex and multidimensional. Due to such intricacy, none were able to identify one aspect of food system sustainability that poses the greatest challenge. One stakeholder discussed the challenges of small scale farming, though this discussion was not included in the video as a it is less applicable to the overall Vancouver food system.
With respect to changes that the Farm has seen in recent years, many stakeholders addressed the acquisition of land from the University through the achievement of the Green Academic status. In addition, all subjects discussed changes in community involvement that the Farm has since seen its conception. It was highlighted that the Farm was primarily student-run and over the years, as food became a larger point of interest to consumers, the community has provided increasingly more support. This support was discussed from the perspective of community engagement programs, markets, as well as through indigenous programs.
Discussion and Conclusion
To understand our findings, relevant themes were extracted from the interview responses and exploration of the five common questions helped understand the stakeholders’ diverse perspectives and expertise. The questions specific to each discipline were key to understanding the inner workings of the farm and how they relate to the regional scope and to our research focus. Also, analysis between the food system studied by Team 19 and 21 was compared with the UBC Farm to identify themes in different communities and to assess their similarities (Appendix C, Table 2).
Upon in-depth analysis (Appendix C, Table 3), we noticed parallel changes occurred with the Farm and the Vancouver food system. The Farm was originally in the centre of campus but over time was pushed to the outskirts to where it is located today (H. Lewis, personal communication, October 31, 2014). This physical shift occurred around the same time when farms were pushed out of Vancouver to accommodate large scale production and when real estate development was taking over agricultural land (V. Campbell, personal communication, October 30, 2014). Dennis (2014) highlighted the importance of protecting agricultural land base, as it allows people the right to define their own food systems. The subsequent lack of emphasis on agriculture and the food system weakened food security in Canada because different components of the food systems, such as agriculture, policy, and nutrition were not considered interconnected (Rideout et al., 2007). Similarly, Dr. Bomke witnessed this separation in the past within the faculty, as a “reductionist” perspective was used and land was split and managed separately by each discipline (A. Bomke, personal communication, November 12, 2014).
Through the perspectives of our stakeholders, agriculture is becoming more prevalent in society as people are increasingly interested in where their food comes from (H. Lewis, personal communication, October 31, 2014). In 2011 when the UBC Farm land was secured, students helped transform the Farm from solely a research facility into a working farm with produce for sale and acting as an “entry point” for the community to be connected with the Farm (A. Bomke, personal communication, November 12, 2014; A. Frye, personal communication, November 12, 2014). The growing popularity and demand of sustainable produce was evident, and the Farm had to accommodate by increasing the number of market days available (A. Frye, personal communication, November 12, 2014). Similarly, the increased community involvement in Vancouver through urban farming, rooftop gardens, greenhouse projects and community supported agriculture program mirrored interest in maintaining a sustainable food system.
It was also discovered that the Farm acts as a working agricultural model for small-scale farms (A. Bomke, personal communication, November 12, 2014). Practice of sustainable methods enables the Farm to generate knowledge and pass on these techniques to interested farmers (A. Bomke, personal communication, November 12, 2014). This sharing not only reveals its role in the regional food system, but also allows for a deeper understanding that a sustainable food system ultimately results in food security (A. Frye, personal communication, November 12, 2014). The importance of supporting small-scale farmers is emphasized by Wittman (2011), who suggests food security can be enhanced when local and domestic produce are protected from being exported.
Food security is acknowledged by the CSFS as a complex issue that cannot be solved without considering the different components of the food system (A. Frye, personal communication, November 12, 2014). At the Farm, sustainability is integrated in the food system through consideration of the relationships between each level of the food system. Similarly, the transdisciplinary approach, outlined by Méndez et al. (2013) addresses active participation of the community as invaluable and highlights the importance of collaboration by various disciplines. “Re-skilling” consumers in the community and empowering them to recognize that their buying powers contribute to environmental protection and local economic support can help influence the overall local food security (McCullum et al., 2005; V. Campbell, personal communication, October 30, 2014). The UBC Farm encompasses these aspects and looks towards a more food secure future.
Potential limitations to our research include stakeholders’ relevance to area of expertise and time allotted for the project. In terms of relevance, some stakeholders did not have direct working experience in the specific discipline. For instance, due to scheduling conflicts we were unable to interview a primary source for the marketing discipline. As an alternative, we selected the director of the Farm to represent the marketing aspect, however details about the specific changes in the market may not be captured. Furthermore, the CBEL project was a course-based study required to be completed within a semester’s time frame. Thus, we had to plan and conduct the research process in a short period. In addition, only stakeholders available to us during this time were interviewed. If more time had been allotted, we may have selected additional relevant stakeholders for each discipline.
Through qualitative data analysis, we noticed areas for improvement regarding Vancouver food security enhancement through the UBC Farm. In terms of food system development, having the community be part of this process is important. Listening to the community wants, assessing actual needs, and comparing what is currently available is a more effective approach in food system design. Including consumers as part of food system planning is crucial because it is their health and food security that will be affected. Continual engagement of students and the community is necessary to enhance knowledge of food security, food sovereignty and sustainable practices because empowerment of the community can increase support and awareness about sustainable food systems and increase buying power in this area. We suggest that the Farm continues educating students and the public to look at the food system holistically as it is both intricate and complex. Additionally, as Canada is a multicultural country, we encourage the continued consideration of gender, age, race and cultural background in food systems planning as this will increase food security for a larger proportion of the Vancouver food system.
Overall, this CBEL project determined changes in the Vancouver food system from the perspective of the UBC Farm. Interview questions were designed to help answer our research question and through analysis, common themes and concerns were identified. Furthermore, an ethnographic video was created to highlight interview commonalities. From our research, we learned about the history of the UBC Farm and how engagement from students and local community continued to make the Farm a successful place today.
Appendix A.2 Video
Provided below are the links to:
A) The final video for the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems.
B) The raw footage of all four interviews.
Véronik Campbell (audio): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCbY18i3G5Q&feature=youtu.be
Hannah Lewis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54LJUfPBvVk
Technical difficulties allowed only the audio component of the interview with Véronik Campbell to be uploaded.
Appendix B.1 Research Question Revision Process
The original research question was: How has the food system changed in the past few decades? After incorporating feedback from our teaching assistant, we have redefined our research question with a more specific focus: Through the perspectives of key actors in market production, academia, community engagement and indigenous programming, how has the UBC Farm changed in the past years and how have these developments affected its position in the current Vancouver food system? By asking a more detailed research question, the purpose of our research became more focused and this allows us to re-establish our research boundaries of the food system at the UBC Farm as well as its relation to the greater Vancouver area.
Appendix B.2 Interview Questions
The interview questions were developed to understand general changes of the food system in terms of sustainability and initiatives undertaken by each discipline to address food security issues. Also, the 5 general questions to be asked for each interviewee are common to Team 19 and Team 21 while the stakeholder-specific questions are only restricted to our group. In terms of generating the 5 general questions, we shared potential questions with Team 19 and Team 21 on Google Doc and decided on which questions to use according to the questions that have the most check marks. As for the stakeholder-specific questions, we created these questions collectively as a group on a separate Google Doc.
5 General Questions to be asked for each interviewee
- Tell me about your role in the UBC Farm. How has your personal role evolved in the Vancouver Food System?
- Is there any aspect of your work that you feel touches on issues of sustainability? Tell us about these.
- What do you see as the biggest challenge to the sustainability of the current food system in the Lower Mainland?
- What significant changes over the past 40 years have impacted the UBC Farm most significantly?
- Where do you see the UBC Farm in the future?
- Could you tell us about the market at the UBC farm and the purpose of this market?
- What significant changes has occurred in the market over the past few years?
- What happens to leftover produce that is not sold at the market?
- Food security is an issue in the Greater Vancouver Area, does the market or UBC farm have any programs that address this problem?
- What is the demographic of the people who buy from the farm or attend market events?
- How is profit distributed throughout the farm? Which parts of the farm need more/less funding?
- How is the price of each food item determined? Which variables are taken into account when deciding price? (Are prices compared with local farmers, supermarket prices?) i.e. accessibility, organic
- What internship, practicum and volunteering opportunities are available?
- What are the learning objectives of these academic programs?
- Why were some of these programs created?
- What changes have been made to these programs, why
- What are the areas of research and how do they contribute to the overall goal of Centre for Sustainable Food Systems?
- As we know, UBC Farm is a model farm and is developing guidelines for sustainable agriculture. How do other farmers use this knowledge? Can you give me an example of a farm that has applied methods developed and modified by the UBC Farm? How applicable is the research conducted at UBC farm to commercial farming priorities?
- Food security is an issue in the Greater Vancouver Area. How does the internships, practicums or volunteering programs at the UBC farm address this problem?
- What are the links between on-farm research here at UBC and research by faculty members outside the Lower Mainland (e.g. model Dairy Farm)?
- Could you tell us about the historical role of indigenous agriculture at UBC Farm?
- What are the traditional practices and crops grown? Have these methods changed over time?
- We read about the DTES community engagement on the website and is wondering if you could provide us more information regarding this project? Could you tell us about the purpose, methodology and the results of this program?
- How are the Indigenous views and traditions reflected in Centre for Sustainable Food Systems objectives?
- Food security is an issue in the Greater Vancouver Area. How has it affect the indigenous traditional food systems?
- What are the current relationships between the UBC Farm and the surrounding community?
- How are the UBC Farm and the community partners contributing and benefiting from this partnership?
- How have the relationships changed throughout the past few years?
- How are you increasing community engagement at the UBC Farm? What are the outreach approaches and events planned to achieve this?
- Are spaces available for the community to use to become engage with the UBC Farm? How do these spaces benefit the UBC Farm and the community?
- How is the community or society influencing the UBC Farm?
- Food security is an issue in the Greater Vancouver Area. How will community engagement at the UBC Farm address food security?
Appendix B.3 Communication Plan
As a team, our main communication occurred on Google Docs and Facebook to increase our efficiency while E-mail was used to contact our community partner and stakeholders. In-person group meetings were held for data management, video creation, and also for conducting interviews and meetings with the community partner and stakeholders. In addition, resources used to conduct the research consisted of a video camera to record the interviews, video editing program to create the video by compiling common themes from the four different disciplines, and laptops to create PowerPoint for presentations and Prezi to design a systems model for this CBEL project. With regards to video camera, we emailed the technician from the Learning Centre to set up a time for borrowing the video camera. And, for the video editing program, the technician from the Learning Centre recommended Camtasia to edit our video, as it is easy for beginners to learn.
Below is a detailed communication plan with our community partner, Dr. Wittman, the four stakeholders we have chosen as well as our teaching assistant.
|Action Item / Communication Method||Deliverable||Dates||Accountable|
|Informational sharing through Facebook||Progress report||Ongoing||
|In-person Team 20 Meeting||Components of the project||Wednesdays; after class and when requested||
|Meeting and Information sharing with Dr. Wittman||To redefine research focus and proposal||When requested||
|Contacting Stakeholders through E-mail||Interview scheduling and conducting the actual interviews||Dates for interviews:
|Consulting with teaching assistant in-person and E-mail||Revision of project components||Ongoing and during breakout sessions||
Learning from the research process and content of our findings
Comparison of the food system model and important themes and findings between team
The following information came from the final project presentations on Nov. 26, 2014.
|Themes/Concepts||Team 19-BC Salmon Industry||Team 20-UBC Farm||Team 21-Temporal Study|
|Policy has been changed to align with sustainability issues||✓||N/A||✓|
|Increase of efficiency and sustainable technology||✓||✓||✓|
|Increase consumer demand for sustainable and ethnic foods||N/A||N/A||✓|
|Increased awareness in local community regarding food sovereignty||N/A||✓||✓|
|Infrastructure changed (in the past: each stakeholder was responsible for own component; in the present: cooperating and building networks)||N/A||✓||✓|
|Food literacy and lack of consumer interest||✓||✓||✓|
✔= Theme was highlighted during presentation
N/A= Theme was not mentioned during presentation. It may be a less significant finding that was not emphasized during the presentation or it was not a finding at all.
Summary of comparison:
In order to compare our food system with Team 19 and 21, we obtained the information from the final presentation and utilized it as a reference to make comparison according to their findings. Both team 19 and 21 mentioned about changes in policies regarding sustainability issues, which is not a common theme to our team. In addition, Team 21 included increased consumer demand for sustainable and ethnic foods as one of their themes, which is not included as a theme for our project as well. However, there are some themes that our team has in common with Team 21, and these themes include changes in infrastructure and increased awareness in local community. While most of our themes are different from Team 19 and 21, there are two themes that are shared with all teams, which are food literacy and increased efficiency of technology.
Learning from the research process and content of our findings
|Themes and Concepts Explored||Connection to Research Focus||Relation to Greater Vancouver Area|
|Physical changes of UBC Farm pushed to outskirts of the campus and now being back as a focus||
|In the 1950s societal values and importance regarding farm was not seen as priority. However, increased interest regarding food sovereignty is evident in the current few years||
|Integrated/ holistic/ transdisciplinary approach||
|Importance of the community engagement in the food system||
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