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solidifying research sites

Megan Betz

The Bloomington Community Orchard's layout was designed by a local artist and centers around a large, hearth-like strawberry patch.

The Bloomington Community Orchard's layout was designed by a local artist and centers around a large, hearth-like strawberry patch.

There are only two more weeks before the Bloomington Community Orchard begins its weekly open house-style workdays. This means I'll be beginning participant observation and first-hand participation, beginning to map how workday participants engage with the site. This involves getting into gear on IRB paperwork and finalizing the structure of my research questions. While on spring break, I've been gathering exciting reading: actor-network theory (ANT), non-representational theory (NRT), feminist qualitative research methods. The result of my research I'm most eager to delve into is bringing ANT and NRT into conversation in the Orchard landscape. I'm interested to see, through mapping participants' movements through the Orchard, who and what the key players are. 

To enhance this research, I'm hoping to bring the 35mm out of storage. Film feels like an unintrusive, authentic way to capture workdays. While taking on a more distanced gaze--separating myself through the lens--I think it will be an interesting way for me to immerse myself in the space. So, for the next few weeks, I'll be pouring over research proposals, sculpting research questions, and determining how to best pull together a mixed methods approach that merges ANT and NRT.

From there, I'll be reconnecting with my two additional research sites, which I happily confirmed this month: Berea, Kentucky and Portland, Oregon. These three sites will allow my work to speak to the full development process of community orchards. The Portland Fruit Tree Project has been in operation longer than the Orchard in Bloomington--and their community orchards, developed along the same timeline as Bloomington, show multiple forms of community partnership. Sustainable Berea is just  beginning the planning process of an orchard, offering a chance to follow a community through decision-making that can only be captured through oral histories at the Bloomington Community Orchard.