Last in-person surveys done

This week I did my last two in person surveys and now I am just waiting for people who have “out-standing” information missing to get back to me. Both surveys went well, only looking at one garden each. For one however, I am still waiting for some quantitative information by email. Because it’s cold outside and the gardens are closed I don’t have any pictures to share, but luckily these were big enough gardens that keep records of inputs so I don’t need to worry about not having access to the fertilizer bags to check N:P:K ratios or measure the garden size. I also got one more online submission which is great. Both garden managers were very nice and it was fun to talk a little about composting in the city at the individual and city scale and how they perceived the opportunities and draw-backs of these practices.

Next week I am hoping to get three gardens to give me missing information. I am also meeting with a company representative, and calling two other companies back, to get the P content of animal feed amounts I obtained last week.


Only a few more weeks to go

The same collective garden in a school backyard in April and then in August. Lots of growth!

The same collective garden in a school backyard in April (above) and then in August (below). Lots of growth!

This week I sent the last emails and phone calls to stakeholders (expect for those who have said yes and might answer a bit later in November). I was excited to cross “contact missing actors and incomplete surveys” off of my To Do list, but it was also upsetting to accept that some of these people will not take the survey and, even worst, will not give me missing data when they have already started the survey. If I never got a “yes” I can’t be too upset, 100% response rates are quite rare (mine is in the 70’s at the moment). But there are a number of actors, who I have invested time and energy with, who said yes to taking the survey but now, after 8 months of contact and my flexibility, are simply saying “No, I am to busy I hope you understand that I can’t participate”. I know there is nothing I can do, but to be honest, no I am not OK with them not giving me the 5 minutes it would take to complete their answers. Now those data that I did collect earlier in the season are useless.

Still, I have some success to report. I completed one new survey and completed another “on-going” one yesterday (although this one still requires me calling companies for P contents). I also have a survey planned today. These three are not “new” per-say, as they were previously agreed on, but it still feels good to get them done. I have two surveys scheduled for next week, and at least one person who committed to completing an existing survey for the last week of November. I have also gotten a few “yes we haven’t forgotten about you, we will do it” which I will follow-up with, but after that I am done with data collection.

My visit to complete the survey with one of our campus farms yesterday yielded a particularly interesting piece of information. I already knew that one of the other farms on campus supplied a large amount of fruits and vegetables for the cafeterias downtown, but I didn’t know that our other campus farm (the one I was talking to yesterday) actually supplies about 40% of the beef and 100% of the eggs for the downtown dinning services. Amazing!

Gardens are officially closed

IMG_3730 IMG_3729The frost has set in and gardens are closed for the winter. Hopefully this will mean people have a moment to fill out my survey!

On Monday I attended the “closing” of one of the gardens I had visited at the peak of summer heat (about 40 degrees Celsius). It was quite a contrast from the lush pots I saw mid July (see pictures). This is one of the gardens that measured harvest this season so I was eager to add this information to their survey.

I haven’t had any other garden meetings this week, although three people did confirm that they will complete the survey in the next week. This is good news but I am sure I will have to write more follow-up emails to make sure it gets done.

As the season comes to a close I am really having to think hard about how I will write my short report back to stakeholders. I will obviously be presenting the data, but I am starting to think about how I can present it so that it seems important to those individual gardeners. I am trying to think about this in terms of instigating change (see last weeks post), but my thinking is still ripening (pun intended). I just watched this great video on “why data matters” (from Design Trust for Public Space who has lots of other great videos and resources about UA in NYC and urban planning in general) and now I think it will be important to mention the benefits of consistent data collection on everyone’s part (including on P). I am hoping to present the island results but then bring it back on how good input management and good waste management on the individual garden level has benefits for the individual (financial and productivity wise) and communal (pollution management, cost of waste management, ect). I am also playing with the idea of an accessible video I could send as a link (but that all depends on time).

Halloween weekly update

IMG_2497Pumpkins and hay bails in the streets of Montreal, it really makes me appreciate the juxtaposition of agricultural harvest and urban landscapes. Happy Halloween!

Unfortunately my survey last friday got cancelled (or perhaps postponed) and my follow-up meeting at a farm yesterday will also need to be rescheduled because of a fire. This week I emailed every actor for whom I was missing data to complete their survey as well as the majority of actors who have not yet done the survey. My objective is to wrap-up data-collection for the second week of November so that I can start my analysis. Already, it doesn’t seem like that will be entirely possible as someone emailed me to let me know that they wouldn’t be able to get me the missing data until the end of the month.

I must admit that I am getting impatient to finish this section of my thesis. I want to explore the data, synthesize, tell a story about it, and publish. On a positive note (as there almost always is), I did get data to complete two of the existing garden surveys.

I finished reading the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath and a great blog post on creating change (especially useful for thinking about how academic work can instigate effective social change) and I am trying to start thinking about how I would be able to frame this UA and P project so that it could actually help change urban management.

I also had my first rehearsal this afternoon for the creation of the piece that will be presented march 1st. I had initially used a spinoff bilingual-version of the 1-minute-science story I had created earlier. However, physically moving in space I am having to restructure and simplify once again. It is such an iterative process. I feel like the narration/dance part is progressing along nicely though and I have been inspired by the fact that I could be captivated for a whole 10 minutes by this piece (my piece should be about 8 minutes and I had been worried about keeping the audience’s attention), and also about how science can be “accidentally” beautiful (here is a post from one of my friends on accidental aRt).