As the consolidation of agriculture continues and the financial speculation of land accelerates, the question of how land will produce food as well as provide well-being and livelihoods to millions on earth is both a regional and borderless question. My research looks to history and engages with producers today in order to describe the changes that led to our current predicament so we can begin to work backwards.
In the 1950s, just over half of Vancouver Island’s population was engaged in food production contributing 85% of the food consumed. Today, 1.3% of British Columbia’s population lives on a farm and the Island produces approximately 5-11% of its own food. This research describes the economic changes that led to this decline and works with the community to generate ideas and visions of how our current trajectory may be adjusted.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
Being a public scholar means remembering that when we talk about food security, we are not just speaking theoretically or statistically, but also about the actual lived experiences and mechanics of how people produce and eat food. We are speaking about our culture, health, economic livelihoods and well-being. This means researching food with those in my community – not talking about them, but talking with them, compiling those thoughts and respectfully and responsibly communicating them.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
PSI can serve to remind us that while the PhD experience is a personal one, it is also dependent on others and carries the potential to impact others as well as the ideas that shape our lives together. It allows the years of PhD life to be opened – so that the process becomes be less inwardly exclusive and more consciously inclusive.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
My PhD work serves as an extension and deepening of my work outside the university. Academic work allows for the time and space necessary to investigate and question the assumptions that guide non-academic work. It creates the opportunity to step back and look at the processes we use to solve problems that may be impractical but entrenched or highly path dependent.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
Broad community input forms the basis of my research - food security, food sovereignty, food sufficiency are all functionally social concepts. Interviews with food producers and harvesters, a partnership with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, and food mapping/photography done with community members is how theory is built in this research – from the ground up.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
After experiencing the state food production in the province, my supervisor inspired me to take this degree on. Her dedication, commitment and care for community well-being and justice convinced me it was the right decision.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
UBC functions as an open arena in which contemporary challenges can be discussed. My Faculty allows for the freedom of conversation necessary to address the complex issues surrounding food, forestry and agriculture today.
Being a public scholar means remembering that when we talk about food security, we are not just speaking theoretically or statistically, but also about the actual lived experiences and mechanics of how people produce and eat food.