by Hannah Davis
My research with the Critical Food Studies Lab over the past year has primarily consisted of collecting and analyzing historical data on agriculture in Indiana. These data come from the USDA’s Census of Agriculture. Approximately every five years, the census collects information about farmland, farmer demographics, crop and livestock production, and the associated economic costs and gains.
During the fall semester, I gathered data on the production of specialty crops, namely fruits, vegetables and nuts. I used these data in tandem with a list of all farmers’ markets in the state, collected by Kassandra Leuthart. My goal was to determine whether there exists a correlation between specialty crop production and the existence of farmers’ markets in Indiana at the county level. Through statistical analysis, I concluded that that relationship does not exist. What I found was simply that crop production has decreased overall in Indiana, while farmers markets continue to grow in popularity. This implies that the emergence of farmers’ markets does not rely on an increase in local specialty crop production.
This semester I collected data on the age, sex and race of farm operators in Indiana. I am using this information to perform statistical and spatial analysis that will help food scholars understand the historic and geographic patterns that exist in these demographic data. So far, I have found an increase in the average age of farmers since the 1980s. I have also seen an increase in the number of female and racial minority farmers starting around the 1990s. These numbers reveal that farming in Indiana has become more diverse in the past few decades, albeit by a relatively small amount. Using mapping software in my analysis will allow me to look at patterns both temporal and spatial. The insights gleaned from this research will provide food scholars with a better picture of who manages farmland in Indiana, and where they are located.
I am also currently working with Green Camino, a local compost collection company. Green Camino collects and composts household food waste, helping Bloomington residents divert their organic waste from traditional waste streams and reduce their carbon footprint. Work that Hannah Gruber and I performed using GIS helped the company match their existing customer addresses to their corresponding city sanitation route, which will allow the company to plan their future pickup routes in coordination with trash and recycling collection. It was rewarding to be able to use my spatial analysis skills to do work that aided a local business. I hope to continue to collaborate with Green Camino to do surveying and story mapping work that will help them expand their customer base.