I aim to convene a wide range of stakeholders to co-develop agricultural policy briefs that can respond to contexts of diversity, unpredictability and complexity
My research examines how agricultural planning, in contexts of diversity, unpredictability and complexity, attempts to shape agricultural futures. This study addresses the following questions: How does/can agricultural planning practice inform municipal and regional agricultural decision-makers in contexts of difference? Research objectives include: i) characterize and explain the agricultural planning system and practices employed in South Western British Columbia, ii) determine how agricultural futures are shaped by the diversity of farm types, agricultural issues, and different approaches to agricultural development. I employ a case study approach to examine the diverse landscapes, practices, and peoples in the region contributing to agricultural planning. Through participant observations and interviews with local and regional government, agricultural industry, non-profit organizations, and with farmers, my analysis will determine sets of actionable practices and strategies that may result in a more equitable and sustainable agricultural sector.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
The task of scholarship is to form relationships with communities and institutions to advance the public good. Research needs are determined by the public and communities most affected and should be designed, implemented and evaluated by and with communities. Being a Public Scholar means being in service to the relationships that I have formed with different communities over the years (multiple levels of government, people experiencing poverty, people living with disabilities, people of colour, queer, indigenous, rural, farmers). A Public Scholar is someone who is curious and critical. They have de-centred their own desire for accolades in recognition of the entangled ways in which people exist with others. This entails levering the privileges of the academe, resources, legitimacy, status, to the attainment of a public good that benefits all, but especially those who bear the burdens or the consequences of our collective mistakes. In the context of my research, Public Scholarship shifts us towards the ideal of a just and sustainable agri-food system.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
PhD students are making significant advancements in scholarship, teaching and learning, and service to their communities and partnerships. The traditional forms of academic output (dissertation, conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications) distance budding scholars from the broader public and/or their stakeholders. The Public Scholars Initiative provides a platform for knowledge dissemination and support to PhD students to pursue accessible forms of scholarly communication that can have broader reach, and thus, broader impact. Additionally, many young and new scholars struggle with multiple stressors, particularly those who are committed to doing Public Scholarship as part of their degree program. The Public Scholars Initiative offers important supports (material and human) that alleviate some of these stressors. In this way, the Initiative can be seen as supporting people, which is an important part of ensuring that Public Scholars have the longevity to continue this important work.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
My end goal is to continue in academia conducting research and working with the agricultural sector and related communities. I aim to advance a research program that ultimately establishes a case for different levels of government intentionally and proactively intervening in their agricultural and food sectors. A significant contribution to my future career is to have established relationships between myself and these different levels of government and that we can continue to collaboratively pursue a research program that advances the public good in this region, which can then be ultimately adapted to other contexts. This project, convening different stakeholder regarding agricultural planning and the future of agriculture, can result in great strides in both addressing contemporary agricultural issues related to land and land-use, but also, in articulating and establishing strategies for unforeseeable, unknown, and unanticipated opportunities or constraints in agri-food systems.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
As part of the collaborative process to generate timely and relevant policy briefs for agricultural planning, I am working with local and provincial levels of government. We will convene actors from civil society that work with Indigenous communities, young farmers, urban food security, and academia; industry associations (e.g. BC Dairy Producers, BC Berry Producers, BC Poultry Association, Certified Organic Association of BC); and different levels of government. These actors will be convened multiple times over the course of the year to identify common understandings of agricultural planning, to identify a range of agricultural futures, and to articulate means of achieving those futures. An additional goal is to develop a handbook that can be used to assist future facilitators, practitioners, and planning students to gain deeper understanding of the socio-cultural complexity of the agricultural sector in the region. This handbook may inform course development around agricultural planning for actors interested in enhancing their capacity to effect change in the sector.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I pursued my Masters of Science in Rural Planning and Development at the University of Guelph, Ontario to gain the skills and knowledge needed to develop solutions to pressing agricultural and food system problems. While I was working as Executive Director for the Richmond Food Security Society, I found the most joy and energy in developing, implementing and disseminating place-based research on Richmond's food and agricultural systems. This experience made me realize the important role that research can have in advancing positive outcomes in different locales. I was inspired by exemplifying and pursuing research that relied on collaborations with multiple partners from multiple sectors and institutions. At the time, one of my major academic partners was the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, UBC Farm and I worked closely with Dr. Hannah Wittman who subsequently encouraged me to pursue my PhD under her and Dr. Lenore Newman's supervision.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
I was born and raised in Richmond, British Columbia. I pursued my undergraduate degree in Soil and Environmental Science at UBC. The opportunities presented during this degree inspired me to go on and pursue my Masterâ€™s degree at the University of Guelph in Rural Planning and Development. I returned to UBC as the institution provides multiple opportunities to improve and develop the skills, knowledges, and connections needed to eventually work as an academic researcher. I have also had the ability to pursue my other passion of teaching through facilitation of graduate Instructional Skills Workshops, working as a Teaching Assistant, and guest lecturing in various departments and opportunities within and outside of UBC. I am also affiliated with the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, UBC Farm, which continues to present opportunities to connect with the broader public and visiting scholars and professionals, thus furthering my own professional network development.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
The Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems was appealing as it is an interdisciplinary program with a high degree of flexibility and connections across campus. It has allowed me to pursue a range of disciplinary avenues and networks that might not have been available in another program.
For you, what was the best surprise about graduate life, about UBC or life in Vancouver?
Being born and raised in the region, the greatest surprise about UBC is how much it continues to change at a rapid pace with an increasingly neoliberal agenda of growth and development over community engagement and modelling a more progressive and equitable university-city.
Do you have any tips for students from your home country coming to Canada / to UBC Grad School?
Pace yourselves, learn very quickly to establish clear boundaries between work and self-care, and establish strong networks of support both in academia and outside.
A Public Scholar is someone who is curious and critical. They have de-centred their own desire for accolades in recognition of the entangled ways in which people exist with others.