After consultation with my (new)* adviser, I’ve decided to narrow my focus a bit from what I had been thinking of before. I was having a hard time trying to separate one idea (the community garden) from another (local-food resources in the area), as I had been thinking of them as two parts of one whole. The community garden is one source of accessible intellectual capital, and there is an interchange of knowledge within it. Certainly the community garden can stand on its own as an object of study, perhaps even a microcosm of the local-foods and sustainable-living movement in this area. Then there are other resources for food-related skills, knowledge, and information in the community, though perhaps not evenly divided between the two towns. Comparing one town to another could easily become a project in and of itself, and looking through a low-income lens (as I do at everything!) adds yet another layer of complexity.
What to do, then? I needed to take each part as a separate entity and consider its merits and drawbacks as a potential contract idea. Even though both concern access to capital and taking more control over one’s food choices, they operate on different spatial and temporal scales. They also require somewhat different research and study skills, not to mention time commitment. My Dear Wife, the Sociology Graduate Student, gave me dire warnings about conducting surveys. My adviser asked me which one I’d rather do. I took the weekend, did some chores, rode my bike a little, and thought things out.
I’ve decided to 1) concentrate on the overall level of resources in the community, taking the two towns as one unit; 2) compare this community with others across the nation, especially including some we visited on our trip this summer; and 3) look at what barriers low-income people may face both here and elsewhere in accessing these resources. Who knows? I may even stumble across some solutions.
*My previous adviser is on sabbatical this quarter.