Freeways and Farms: Veggielution at Emma Prusch and Taylor Street Urban Farms Study

Project Investigators: Dr. Joshua Baur and Ashley Estrada

Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Jan English- Lueck

The scope of our project examines how nearby roadways impact the perspectives of the users and producers of urban farms. Two urban farms in San Jose, California were focal points of our research: Veggielution at the Emma Prusch Farm Park and Taylor Street Farm. The Mineta Transportation Institute provided the funding for our project, with Dr. Joshua Baur as Primary Investigator and me as a Co-Investigator.

As a Co- Investigator to the project, I had the flexibility to focus my research as an applied anthropologist, utilizing Anthropological themes such as place attachment and the social production of space. The question that I was seeking to answer was “how do the components of the roadways, whether the natural or built environment of the street, play into the physical and emotional construction of these farms?

As a research team, Dr. Joshua Baur and I conducted fourteen semi- structured interviews with the volunteers and farm staff at the farm sites during the summer of 2019. In addition to our interviews, I also conducted structured and participant observations during volunteer gardening events held as each farm site. The flexibility of our project allowed Dr. Baur and I to conduct our own analysis centered around our focus of research.

As an applied anthropologist, I shaped my theoretical framework around place attachment and the social production of space. Through my analysis of these themes, I was able to forecast three core results:

  1. Participants adapted to the roadway noise through noise replication.
  2. The location of the farm sites was accessible due to surrounding roadways.
  3. Participants constructed their space as a platform for meaning that can be produced in other urban places.

These three core findings represent implications for future research in the field of applied anthropology. By focusing on the intersection of place attachment and the social production of space, I was able to determine that the obvious constraints of roadways, such as busy traffic and noises were not relevant. The social connection and the connection to land that volunteers and farm staff experience holds relevance. The place is not as significant as the activity that motivates volunteers and farm staff to visit the space. Such places can be replicated in other urban spaces by highlighting motivating factors such as educational opportunities and community interaction. An applied anthropologist can provide an ethnographic lens to the construction and building of these future spaces.


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