There have been many different pieces to this experience, and all of them have progressed greatly over the past eight weeks. I have surveyed 16 Detroit farmers for my research project, most of those through in-person interviews and tours of their operations. All of these responses have been organized into a spreadsheet, and I have done my best to categorize and count their answers in order to look for patterns and commonalities. I was surprised at the conclusions I was able to draw from the data, because initially I wasn’t sure I would be able to make any meaningful connections between the different farms. One thing that really stuck out to me was that most farmers said they turn to their contacts in the farming community for resources and support, painting a picture of a supportive, sprawling network of Detroit growers. I also really appreciated how welcoming and willing to share their time and information every farmer was.
Now that the last of the interviews have been completed, I am in the process of creating a presentation and written report summarizing my findings. Fortunately I have been able to draw from my experience with research through UROP last year to guide me on this aspect of the project, but I have also had to think creatively about how to represent a large amount of qualitative data. For example, one question asked about the various challenges facing farmers, which naturally received a wide variety of responses. I have not yet figured out a good way to group these responses together or visually present the information, so I am still contemplating how to do that. Overall, I’m excited to have a finished product–and to then think about how my very brief, informal research can serve as a foundation for more impactful research in the future
Looking at the bigger picture, my experience this summer has provided a very brief window into nonprofit work, as I have had the chance to talk with several individuals running nonprofit farms about the work that they are doing with food systems. This summer has also given me insight into some of the major challenges facing nonprofits, particularly the lack of funding and staff which prevents organizations from accomplishing as much as they would like. That being said, there’s so much left for me to learn about nonprofit work and community organizing, and I’m glad to have gotten a glimpse of what’s out there!