Research Interests and Areas of Expertise: Welcome! My primary research interests relate to how various types and processes of change are altering rural places and spaces in Canada and elsewhere. Once well understood in both its composition and function, the nature and purpose of rural space is now highly contested in many regions. While it might have been clear at one time that the purpose of the countryside was for primary production, in 2007 that is no longer so clear. Many of the changes that have affected society as a whole in recent decades have imprinted themselves on the rural landscape and have altered the nature of economic activity, the demographics of rural communities and the composition of 'influential voices' in the governance of rural affairs. In some respects the contemporary countryside has become a canvas on which a wide variety social, economic and governance issues are playing out sometimes happily and sometimes not.
Over the past decade my research has focused on how rural areas generally, and agriculture in particular, have been affected by, and have responded to pressures and processes of change. Specific research foci have included the sensitivity of agricultural systems to changes in either environmental conditions or environmental governance approaches. The former are reflected in issues such as climatic variation and change and the latter in agri-environmental programs and understanding farmer acceptance or rejection of these measures. More recently my focus has shifted to understanding how various forces are producing multiple types and trajectories of development in the same rural places and acknowledging that these trends are not always complementary to each other. A series of analyses, conducted with graduate students, has explored the idea that agriculture and rural communities are becoming less connected than was historically the case and have tried to identify points of potential reconnection. This idea of 'reconnection' underlies my current interest and activity in local food systems and short(er) supply chains in the farm sector. I currently have running a multi-faceted program of research that is exploring how various food initiatives are forming and redefining producer-consumer relations and even the purpose of rural space. Along the way my collaborators and I have been looking at the Farmers' Market as a site of local food trade, the formation of local food networks, the re-orientation of rural space around amenity and consumption, and the emerging environmental importance of re-localizing food (e.g. carbon costs and food miles). Some great graduate research opportunities along the way!
Professional and Community Activities: Like most faculty members I am involved in a variety of activities that relate to my 'day job' in some way. My current and recent service activities include the following:
- Vice Chair, City of Cambridge Farmers' Market Advisory Committee;
- Board Member FarmStart Farm Incubator Program (a pilot farm project based at the St.Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ontario);
- Member of Land Management Committee Grand River Conservation Authority (2001? 2004).
Current Research Projects:
- Closing the Farm to Plate Gap: Needs and Prospects in the (short) Supply Chain, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada - Standard Research Grant (2008-2011: $116,000);
- New Markets, New Farms (?): connecting immigrant farmers with ethno-cultural food communities in Ontario. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sustainable Rural Communities Program (2007 ? 2009; $32,000)
- Short Supply Chains and Local Food: Adding Value Through Farm ? Food Linkages. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. New Directions Research Program (2005 ? 2008; $73,000);
- Assessing the Role of Local Food Systems in Re-linking Agriculture and Rural Communities. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Standard Research Grant (2004-2007; $111,000);
- Designing for Resiliency and Self-Reliance: An Evaluation of Options for Responding to Agricultural Drought in Canada. Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Research Fund [with R. deLoe and R. Kreutzwiser] (2004-2007; $119,000);
- Local Food Systems: Linking and Sustaining Agriculture and Rural Communities in Ontario. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sustainable Rural Communities Program [with A.E. Joseph] (2004-2007; $43,000)