Weekly update: mid October

Today I had my first on-site garden visit in quite a while. The survey went well and it was lovely to see flowers still in bloom even though the temperature is plummeting (my fingers were freezing while I was measuring the garden plots and all I could think about was “Winter is coming”, yes as in the Game of Throne reference). I will be doing another garden visit tomorrow (because last friday’s survey was rescheduled to this week).The garden today was at a hospital where patients can participate in garden therapy and have their own little plot to manage is a very beautiful setting (see pictures).IMG_3727

The hospital is on a large piece of land and they thus produce large amounts of high-quality compost and rameal chipped wood from all the landscaping waste. Although only a small section is dedicated to the vegetable garden and 2 greenhouses (where they produce plants for the grounds but also herbs and poinsettias for sale to the public), the vegetable gardeners do have access to the compost produced by the larger landscaping endeavors. I think the most interesting part of the interview was hearing about how their idea of input management has changed over time. Over the years they have decided to “let the ecosystem work for them”. In other words they have stopped plowing every spring in order to let soil structure build from the addition of local compost and the rameal chipped wood and don’t add synthetic fertilizers to the vegetable gardens. They do manually loosen the soil a bit for planting and have noticed how many more earth worms and other biota have come to populate the plots and now “work for them”.

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A few more surveys planned (finally)

Good news this week: I have one restaurant survey today, and then one with a hospital garden next Thursday, and one with a university in November scheduled. I know it is only three out of the twenty I am trying to get, but I will take any little piece of progress I can get. I also had one organization respond by email with qualitative data which is nice (although not that useful for creating my P budget).

This week I organized a little follow-up science communication training to invite other graduate students in my department to work on 30 second science talks (based on the Liber Ero training I did in September). Only a few people showed up but I think they appreciated the activity, and I think I also made some progress on my little pitch. Here is the latest version:

Farmers 200 years ago recycled their waste because it was a valuable resource to grow food. Today most of us are no longer farmers and live in cities and we have stopped recycling this valuable waste. Now it mostly ends up in landfills or in waterways. I work on how urban agriculture can help us decrease waste and increase recycling of such valuable waste because it contains lots of essential elements for food production. One of these important resources is phosphorus. It is a great element to focus on to study the role urban agriculture in a more sustainable food system because we have a limited supply of phosphorus and can also cause water pollution.

Fall is upon us in Montreal and harvests are coming to an end. I hope this means more "data harvesting" for me.

Fall is upon us in Montreal and harvests are coming to an end. I hope this means more “data harvesting” for me.

Weekly update in to October

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agricultural landscape in Portugal. This image makes me think about how different land-uses make up the landscape, just like each piece of research fits into a (or many) larger bodies of work

Again not much to report on the data collection front as the one follow-up interview I had scheduled got canceled and although I sent emails out, I have yet to get data or meeting dates sent back to me.

Last Saturday I did got to an Montreal food system event (JAM convergence) which I think was positive to understand the context within which my work fits. I made a few connections (although not possible survey respondents) and I look forward to discussing my work and their work and how it all fits together.

Think has brought together a number of sources (see below) that made me think of how my work (so the themes of my work, my science communication and art, and my methods) fits into a larger context.

Interesting interview with Wendel Berry on environmental and sustainability problems we are facing. It’s really about the beauty and irreplaceablility of nature and the importance of agriculture.

A little word from my collaborator Edgar on why we need art-science collaboration.

A nice resource about doing interviews (in the sense of data collection, not preparing for a job).

Website on Los Angeles UA, which is kind of like the AUMTL site but a different type of synthesis. I could see how the work I am interested in, which is both about quantification and about the social and biophysical context P (and other resource) management happens in, could fit into such a synthesis.

Art-science collaboration moving forward

Again this week not much to report on data collection. I have just been sending out reminder emails, working on writing up my methods section and exploring the data that has been collected.

On a positive note, we (my art and dance collaborators and I) have been preselected (just waiting on confirmation for the physical location) to be part of the Art Souterrain festival and perform our participatory dance piece on the importance of P cycling at La Nuit Blanche March 1st 2014. This is a piece done with The Sensorium and as a smaller piece part of my larger project idea of P is for play which I have mentioned in a previous post. This week I have been working on some of the technical specifics of putting the performance together and we have put out the call to get hire 5 dancers (I think we have them now) and start rehearsals in November.

In addition to thinking about my own dance work, I came across (through a twitter link) some nice dance-science communication, this time about statistics.

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Photo credit: Eve Marie Beauchemin