When it comes to auto-ethnography and, in this case, its application to urban farming and food sustainability, Ellis et. al explain the importance of examining research from within one’s personal cultural framework. They argue that “auto-ethnographers… must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders.”
My initial interest in urban farming stems from my work with Hidden Harvest, a local not for profit based in the Illawarra region which works a lot with reducing food waste. Whilst urban farming has not necessarily been a central focus of the work I have done with Hidden Harvest, the demographic of people and places who are associated with this topic has opened my eyes to the potential of this activity and it’s prevalent role in addressing food security. As Salim et. al. explain, “urban farming or urban agriculture refers to the farming activities in urban areas, which are commonly used for income or food. It contributes to food security, food safety and improve the quality of the environment and greening the country, especially the urban area” (2019).
In this instance, I have used my own cultural upbringing as a way to examine the practice of urban farming from an inherently rural standpoint Growing up in an agricultural environment, I’ve had quite a great deal of experience with farming itself, so for this project I believe it will be interesting to investigate the way the farming practices which I am well accustomed to may be adapted to suit the urban setting.
As Yeung argues, this is particularly important when investigating the imminent future of Asia. He writes:
“In Asia, where most of the urban growth has concentrated in metropolitan areas, the problem of food availability and access is becoming more acute. In these urban centres, uneven distribution of incomes, the prevalence of poverty, diminishing farmlands, inefficient distribution systems, and rising expectations have all contributed to increasingly critical problems of food supply and distribution, particularly as they affect the urban poor”.
Applying my own personal cultural framework to this study must also involve adapting my knowledge and skills through experimentation and active participation in urban farming. In order to fully understand how urban farming may operate in areas of high density and minimal space (two characteristics which I am not particularly familiar with in terms of traditional farming), I will be challenged to evolve my practice. Ellis et. al. argue that we must become “participant observers” in the culture, “that is, by taking field notes of cultural happenings as well as their part in and others’ engagement with these happenings”.
As such, my group members and I will be setting up our own version of an urban vertical farm on one of our balconies as a way of trialling this idea and becoming “participant observers”. This will look similar to the one depicted in the video below:
Obviously, we would be unable to construct something like this in an Asian setting in order to truly examine this practice in relation to our research, but it is hoped that a similar recreation may give us deeper insight throughout the auto-ethnographic process.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
Salim, Siti & Alaa, Musaab & Yusof, Zawiyah & Ibharim, Laili & Salim, Siti & Hashim, Fazian. (2019). Urban Farming Activities in Southeast Asia: A Review and Future Research Direction. MATEC Web of Conferences. 266. 02010. 10.1051/matecconf/201926602010.
Yeung, Y, ‘Examples of urban agriculture in Asia’, United Nations University, online article, accessed 15 September 2019, available at <http://archive.unu.edu/unupress/food/8F092e/8F092E05.htm>