Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Urban Agricultural Survey

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Have you ever wondered how much food you and your neighbors are actually growing and gathering in your Boise neighborhood?

Think of all those gardens, fruit trees, backyard chicken coops and even the occasional urban cow, pig or goat. Then add in that guy next door with a freezer full of venison and trout. That adds up to something substantial, right? Maybe even a neighborhood food surplus?

Those are questions Susan Carmichael wants to answer. When she moved back to Boise from Corvallis, Ore., in June 2009, she was struck by the number of small-scale, agricultural activities she saw flourishing in the Collister area near her home. A former Oregon State University anthropology major, she decided a door-to-door food assessment survey had the potential to unearth some surprising and useful data on her Boise neighborhood’s urban food production. Once that information was gathered, Carmichael thought, a network could be built—via a Yahoo chat group, for instance—to share, trade or sell whatever surplus food might be available. If successful, that assessment survey could be used as a model to track and share food production in other Boise neighborhoods.

“This would be a great way for us to get a really clear snapshot of what’s going on right here in our urban area," Carmichael said.

Carmichael has already discussed the idea with Dr. John Ziker, associate professor with the Department of Anthropology at Boise State. She says he has expressed an interest in supplying students to help with the door-to-door survey and then scientifically catalog the collected data.

At a meeting at the Collister library on June 29, Carmichael and 10 interested people began making preliminary plans for the Collister neighborhood food assessment survey. One of the meeting attendees, Helen Ubic, who is working on an urban agricultural study with the University of Idaho, said hard data on urban food production is hard to come by and Carmichael’s survey could have research value reaching far beyond a single Boise neighborhood.

“It could be an invaluable tool for the City of Boise, for Ada County and the state to begin to have one project that’s looking deeply into neighborhoods," Carmichael said later. “I’m convinced we’d come up with some real surprising data.”

The project is still in its preliminary stages. If you have an interest in getting involved, contact Susan Carmichael at or 208-853-1458.

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