Update 1- Mapping and reviewing the literature

Over the past two weeks I have worked on mapping Providence’s food landscape, conducted a literature review of the research on community gardens, and made contact with people who can help me find interested interview participants. So far I feel like I have already learned so much about community gardens and feel much more prepared to conduct interviews as an informed researcher.

By creating an ArcGIS Story Map about Providence’s food landscape, I have learned a lot about the city itself and food insecurity. Initially I was planning on mapping areas of the city that could be considered food deserts, but I ran into some limitations with ArcGIS Online. Locating food deserts would have involved combining a lot of different factors, such as income, access to a vehicle, distance to a supermarket and many others, which the application was not equipped to do. I am still happy with how the Story Map is turning out though, because I think that mapping the locations of supermarkets and the areas within walking distance of them is still a good indicator of food access options. I also created two ArcGIS Web Apps which users can use to find their nearest community gardens and farmers’ markets in Providence. I am aiming to finish my Story Map soon and will link it here when it is fully complete.

Last week I emailed with someone from an organization involved with the gardens who can hopefully introduce me to a few interested gardeners by the end of next week. I will use snowball sampling to find more, giving my research hopefully around 10 or 12 interviews in total. Since community gardens are places of importance and pride for their members, I am hoping that it won’t be too challenging to get people talking about them! I am planning on conducting, transcribing, coding and analyzing the interviews over the next four weeks and then finishing up with the final paper.


  1. Regan Sindelar says:

    This sounds like a great research project! From my (limited) knowledge of community gardens, it seems like they serve multiple purposes in the community: making fresh produce available to underserved areas, creating a place to gather with others, encouraging community cohesion, and giving people a space for creativity in the form of gardening, just to name a few. I have never really considered the potential for gardens to promote cultural diversity by allowing people to plant produce that is unique and important to them. This sounds like another fascinating and important benefit of community gardens, and I am excited to see what you learn from your interviews. I also think your Story Map and apps will not only benefit your research, but will also help those in Providence to access resources that they may not have known about previously. I’m looking forward to hearing about the rest of your project!

  2. Hey Serena,

    I am very interested in your use of mixed methods to conduct an analysis of the effects of community gardens in Providence, RI. I really like how you are combining the concepts of community gardens, food deserts, and the social importance of gardens. Creating web apps that enable people to find the nearest garden/farmers market nearby is a really interesting idea and a great way to connect community members.

    A weighted model, like you described, would be a very effective way to analyze the different factors that go into food security. Do you think there is another way you can present these variables visually as ArcOnline is not capable of creating the model? It would be neat if you could view the different factors of food insecurity throughout the city on a map.

    After reading through your blog post and next steps, I was thinking about how you could combine the two types of data that you are collecting – qualitative interview data and spatial data. Perception mapping, where community members add information to maps, would be an interesting way to combine these types of knowledge. To perception map, the interviewee is presented with a map of the study area and can draw polygons on the map to indicate areas of importance. For example, during your interview, you could show people a map of Providence. They could then mark their favorite grocery stores,the closest places to shop for food near them, or circle areas they believe to be food insecure. Last year, I conducted mixed-methods GIS research and we interviewed community members about beach debris and had the interviewees indicate where they saw debris accumulate. After we combined all of our interview data, we were able to compare the perception-mapped data with the existing spatial data, which allowed us to discover new trends or perceptions of trends. Participatory GIS mapping could be an engaging way to integrate the spatial aspects of your project with the community knowledge that you are collecting via interviews. I am looking forward to learning more about your research in the coming weeks!


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