Author Archives: evan duxbury

Post #4 The Pay Off

They say that any endeavor worth doing requires a good deal of work and resilience, and this project surely fell into that category. After several months of planning, we delivered a workshop at the Grandview Woodlands Food Connection (GWFC) to investigate the perspectives of the ultimate users, the youth members of the Teen Center, on the proposed conversion of a decorative garden to a food garden.

Executive Summary

The Grandview Woodland Food Connection (GWFC) is a Neighbourhood Food Network that works to improve food access and sustainability in the neighborhood surrounding the Britannia Community Centre (Grandview Woodland Food connection, n.d.). Our project was designed to complete the first phase of a garden transformation project facilitated by the GWFC at the Britannia Teen Centre (BTC). Our project’s contribution was to ascertain the perspectives of the youth who attend the BTC and are intended to be the end users of the food garden. We held an in-person workshop with the teens, splitting them into four groups, each sitting with a poster featuring an open-ended question. The teens added their responses to the posters (as shown below) throughout a facilitated five minute response period.

The results showed that the teens at the BTC both want a food garden and are keen to be involved in garden operations. The GFWC can now move forward with the next steps of their garden transformation with a better idea of how to involve their teen stakeholders, improve teen food sovereignty and ensure the results of the project align with the teens’ needs and wants.


15 youth attended the session, which exceeded our expectations. We conducted an icebreaker activity to help ensure the youth were comfortable in the space and and then split the group into 4, each with a piece of poster paper and pens. We then asked the teens a question about the garden, facilitated a 5 minute discussion and asked them to record their responses on the poster. The groups cycled through each poster so that we received responses from all of the youth to all of the questions. We concluded the session by serving pizza and conducting a draw for a pair of movie passes.

So What

Our data collection session was taking place quite late in the semester, which meant we wouldn’t have any time to try again if anything went wrong. Not having worked with teens before, we were concerned that we might not be able to collect sufficient data for our final project. However, the session and the results it generated exceed our expectations and will serve us well in the week to come for our infographic and report.

We hope the results will also help our community partner implement their garden project. We feel that the approach we took aligns with the iPES-FOOD (2015) report that emphasizes involving the viewpoints of a diverse group of stakeholders and ensuring that project proposals are context specific. The report suggests that the traditional top down implementation of sustainability projects is unable to address complex problems and that gathering perspectives from all kinds of experts, especially those in the community, will lead to improved outcomes.

Our report helps address some of the knowledge gaps that existed in the realm of what teens would want from a food garden and hopefully will simplify the task of including teen perspectives in this project. We feel confident that as a result of this project, the GWFC will be able to proceed in a fashion that ultimately engages youth in a way that improves both their food sovereignty, food access and also educates them about their food system.

Outside the project, we’ve all learned valuable skills about working in groups, working with teens and working with community partners. As the Power & Privilege course (n.d.) taught us, disagreement between how a group sees itself and how others see it can lead to conflict. We feel we did a good job of defining roles for our group and the GWFC, they being the subject matter experts while we were responsible for planning and execution, which promoted a harmonious working relationship.

Now What

Despite cautions about the difficulties of working with community partners and teen groups, we were pleasantly surprised by how our interactions went. The GWFC was responsive, flexible and provided wonderful guidance on how we might best work with their teen audience. We were concerned that the teens might not be interested in attending a workshop about food gardens, and even if they did show up, that they might not be willing to share their thoughts. However, attendance was great and they appeared to be very engaged with the content. We agreed that this experience has made us more likely to engage with community groups in the future.

We also leave this project with a more tangible sense of the flaws with the  “food-is-a-personal-choice” narrative alluded to by Dixon (2014). The paper argues against the notion that people merely need to be educated about healthier food choices to eat healthier, instead highlighting the systemic barriers (like cost) that prevent them from being able to make that choice. Responses to questions indicated that many of these teens faced hunger on a regular basis (as shown below). These teens were also clearly aware that they should be eating healthier, and wanted this garden to help make that happen, but due to a variety of limitations, are unable to make that diet a reality. This has made a lasting impression upon us in terms of the awareness of how little  control the less fortunate wield over their diet and food circumstances.


iPES-FOOD. (2015). The New Science of Sustainable Food Systems: overcoming barriers to food system reform. International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. pp.1-17.

Dixon, B. A. (2014). Learning to see food justice. Agriculture and Human Values, 31(2), 175–184.

Engaged Scholar: Module 2 – Power & Privilege. (n.d.). University of Memphis

Blog #3 Different Perspectives

Since our last post, we have made considerable progress. We have a new scope for our Grandview Woodland Food Connection (GWFC) project and have taken our first steps toward developing the interview guide that will be central in our new project direction. This post describes how our project will compare and contrast perspectives from food garden stakeholders and how our group’s attitudes have evolved over the course of the semester

A New Direction

Grandview Woodland Food Connection E-Newsletter

As described in our last post, the GWFC had suggested we support them in transforming a decorative garden into a food garden at the Teen Center. After investigating what would be required to successfully carry-out such a project, we quickly discovered that it would not be feasible to complete the garden transition by our April 3 deadline.

Weekly Objectives Achievements
Feb 26th-4th Defined new, scope appropriate project
  • Our group met with our TA to discuss the looming deadlines and to fine tune our prospective GWFC project
  • Came away with a new project scope which can be delivered by the deadline and provides value for future LFS 350 groups
Mar 5th-11th Had a meeting scheduled with Ian

Developed draft interview guide

  • Marika had scheduled a face to face meeting with Ian Marcuse. This was ultimately postponed but provided an excellent opportunity for us to meet as a group
  • This group meeting led to the drafting of our Interview Guide

As shown above, a discussion with our TA, Colin, helped us lay the groundwork for the transition by elucidating perspectives from both the GWFC administration and the teens who will be accessing the proposed garden. Our project will revolve around developing an interview guide, driven by supporting literature, which will allow us to compare and contrast food justice and garden operation ideologies between the two groups, hopefully leading to an eventual garden that meets the needs and expectations of both groups.

Image result for grandview woodland food connection

Teens at one of the GWFC’s gardens


As demonstrated by the example in Bradley & Herrera (2016), even two groups of people who work very closely together can have disconnected and uncommunicated viewpoints. In the story, they describe a pleasant, educated, white man in a position of power on a Los Angeles farm who knows nothing about the plants his Latino gardeners were growing and selling. This scenario demonstrates the importance of seeking stakeholder buy-in before implementing a project; different people from different backgrounds have different needs, wants and opinions. In our case, the majority of the teens are of First Nations heritage and may have different expectations from the Vancouver Coastal Health funded GWFC when it comes to food gardens.

Lee Shulman (2005) presents a persuasive argument for how an individual’s training and experiences determine one’s approach to problem solving. He reasons that through life, each of us develops a “signature pedagogy,” or a problem solving algorithm we apply routinely. By applying the same problem solving strategy in every situation, we don’t have to think about our method, instead allowing ourselves focus on the subject matter. We expect that because the two groups in our study have different training and experiences, that they will have different outlooks on this food garden situation.

The first step in our process was to be a meeting with Ian Marcuse, the Community Food Developer, to present a draft of our interview guide and to get a sense of what kind of questions he would like to have included in the guide. Unfortunately, our meeting with Ian was postponed, but we still met as a group to develop the beginnings of our interview guide.

Moment of Significant Change


Just as the focus of this project has evolved to key on sharing differing perspectives, so too has our group dynamic. In class, we shared how our experience had changed throughout the semester, specifically plotting “communication” and “motivation” against critical milestone’s in our project’s development. The image below demonstrates how our initial enthusiasm waned and how finding our second community partner was a big turning point for our group.

So What

This highlights the importance of flexibility when it comes to project management. Our grafting project ran into several significant challenges which would have made progress much more difficult and diminished the rewards. Learning that our course would conclude before prime grafting season and that no fruit would grow for several years are a few examples of the factors that led us to change tack.

Instead of crawling painfully forward, we decided to change directions and proceed with a new project with the GWFC. Our new project presented a clear path forward to our goal of completing a food justice project in the community. Finding a way around our obstacles as opposed to trying to plow through them led to a renewed sense of hope for our group which improved motivation and communication.

Now What

Going forward, we’re hopeful that motivation and communication will continue to improve as both will be critical to ensuring our project is completed before the deadline. This experience will be a valuable reminder that maintaining a flexible mindset can reveal new possibilities and breathe new life into a team.

Upcoming Objectives

  • Week +1 Finalize interview guide with input from Ian Marcuse
  • Week + 2: Use the guide to identify what the teens and the administration (Ian) want to get out of the project
  • Week +3: Finalize a draft of our report, presentation and infographic
  • Week +4: Deliver presentation and infographic
  • Week +5: Deliver report

Strategy for Successful Delivery

In our compressed timeline, a big part of our strategy is going to be setting and hitting deadlines. We need to ensure our sequence of events kicks off early with the development of the interview guide, followed by the interviews to generate the data necessary to prepare our infographic and report.

To make this a reality, we will need to continue to communicate effectively to ensure that expectations are clear and that all the pieces come together as intended. If we can achieve these levels of performance, we will ensure ourselves a successful dismount.


Bradley, K., & Herrera, H. (2016). Decolonizing food justice: Naming, resisting, and researching colonizing forces in the movement: Decolonizing food justice. Antipode, 48(1), 97-114. doi:10.1111/anti.12165

Shulman, L. S. (2005). Pedagogies. Liberal Education, 91(2), 18.


Blog #2 Grafting Progress Report

Grafting a scion to a tree is not a process that occurs naturally, nor is it free from risk or complication. Like an unsuccessful graft, our project has felt unnatural and our progress has been far from straightforward. That said, this project has given us a chance to display some resilience and overcome some daunting challenges. Emerging from adversity, our new project direction has us heading toward a successful outcome and an exciting conclusion to the course.

Our path to this point has been an interesting one, to say the least. Our weekly achievements offer a glimpse into how we got here and are summarized below:


Weekly Objectives Achievements
Jan. 29-Feb. 4th Connect with potential community partners

(Vancouver Fruit Tree Project, Douglas Justice & David Tracey)

– Amy & Marika met with David Tracey on Feb. 3rd

– Gained expert insight on the challenges & difficulties of grafting

– Received recommendation to connect with the Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA)

Feb 5th-11th Refine project focus and target population – Concluded that working with schools would be the best route to 1) create impactful change and 2) ensure project sustainability
Feb 12th-18th
(No class)
Secure a community partner – Michael met with Douglas Justice on Feb 13th

– Received further insight on the challenges & difficulties of grafting

– Opened to the possibility of evolving our project focus

– Reached out to the Grandview Woodland Food Connection (GWFC)

Feb 19th-25th
(No class)
Secure a community partner, evolve project focus based around their goals & insights – Amy, Belle & Marika met with Ian Marcuse from GWFC on Feb. 20th

– Gained even more insight through listening to the ideas of a local leader in the food justice movement

– Were given the opportunity to choose from a multitude of interesting and impactful project ideas

– Secured an AWESOME community partner

– Unanimously agreed to choose a project that was achievable, exciting and quite relevant to our proposal content & research


What Happened?

Despite our best efforts to communicate our project ideas to our initial community partner prospect, the EYA, our progress ground to a halt. The main problem was that their Growing Kids program is no longer running. This program was aimed at establishing school gardens in inner city schools to connect students and teachers with growing their own food. In our minds it was the perfect foundational social network in which to introduce grafting and to engage students. A secondary problem arose from our conversations with grafting experts who warned us about the complexities and seasonality requirements involved with grafting. Unable to find a community partner with the interest, skill set or garden based food production presence to support a grafting project, we were once again searching for a community partner and a project to focus on.


So What?

This was a huge blow to our project as the community partner had been intended to play a large role in connecting us with stakeholders and in guiding the focus of our project.  We now faced the prospect of starting from scratch, 7 weeks behind the other groups. Much of the research we had done, the proposal (attached) we had written and the plans we had made for our final presentation and infographic will need a dramatic overhaul or  be discarded entirely. What our efforts did generate, was an interest in pursuing a project in the school environment which led us to reach out to the GWFC.


What Now?

Moving forward, we need to recognize that this is exactly the sort of
uncertainty and test of resilience that was forecast by the course syllabus. Certainly, we will need to develop our new plan quickly and work with unrelenting time-efficiency for the rest of the semester, but we believe that we can build something worth presenting in March. As described by Tim Hardford, it is challenging circumstances that can sometimes make for the best outcomes (Hardford, 2015). He argues that a bit of chaos improves problem solving because it eliminating marginal gains in a single direction and instead creates larger gains, more diffuse in focus.

True to the Hardford formula, after exploring grafting projects in depth we’ve now pivoted to pursue a garden transformation project, having already identified what appears to be a suitable replacement for our community partner in the GWFC. The exact nature of our project is uncertain, but it looks to revolve around assessing the feasibility of installing a food garden in front of the Teen Center.


Strategies Moving Forward

One interesting aspect of this community partner is that there are two stakeholder groups: our contact is the Community Food Developer who coordinates activities; the target audience is the students who are reportedly facing food justice issues and who will actually use and benefit from this project. We agree with Mr. Sirolli’s stance that an effective project ensures that the end users are consulted and engaged in this project (Sirolli, 2012). We also recognize that improving food justice with this project will require us to first gain an understanding of how these teens engage with their food environment and if/how they want to engage with a food garden (McCullum & Desjardins, 2005). Therefore, a focus for our group will be to speak directly with the teens who will benefit from this project to ensure that any garden project will align with their vision for the space. As Mr. Sirolli points out, asking the users what they want is the best way to ensure they’re engaged and excited about the project.

In week +1-3 of our weekly objective chart below, we talk about getting specific about the nature of our deliverables. McCullum & Desjardins delineate 3 stages of food security projects which will help guide us as we evaluate the situation (McCullum & Desjardins, 2005). Given our timeline, it may not be possible to secure the permissions to initiate and complete a stage 2 food security activity like a food garden. We may instead choose to complete a stage 1 activity like an educational program or a data collection initiative, laying the foundation for a future group to continue with stage 2.

  • Week +1-3: Define our new project with the GWFC. In consultation with the GWFC, connect with the teen staff of the Teen Center to identify what they want to get out of the project and get specific about the nature of our deliverables.
  • Week +4: Finalize a draft of our report, presentation and infographic
  • Week +5: Deliver presentation and infographic
  • Week +6: Deliver report


Hardford, T. (2015). How frustration can make us more creative. Retrieved from

Sirolli, E. (2012). Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!. Retrieved from

McCullum, C., Desjardins, E., Kraak, V. I., Ladipo, P., & Costello, H. (2005). Evidence-based strategies to build community food security. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105(2), 278-283. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2004.12.015


350 GraftingProposal

Blog #1 – Why not both?

Imagine your life as a series of decisions where you’re asked to choose awesome thing A or awesome thing B. Both have their strengths, but after an agonizing decision, no matter your choice, you only ever get to experience one of the two awesome things and will forever wonder what you missed out on. Now imagine a third option, a reframing of the paradigm, a fundamental re-writing of the “rules”: you choose BOTH. This is the kind of shift we envision for the City of Vancouver and its tree population.

Our city is well stocked with decorative trees in our parks, courtyards and along most roads. These trees provide value in many ways, from providing the shade to cool our city to producing oxygen and contributing to rain water management. These trees are usually chosen because their root structures and canopies fit well with city infrastructure. No threat to powerlines, no risk of damaging sidewalks or toppling over onto citizens. These are all great qualities, but we’ve chosen them at the expense of fruit production. Despite all the productive capacity in our city’s trees, none of them contribute to our food system.

Now imagine choosing both: you walk to a picnic in Stanley Park along an even, unbroken, well lit sidewalk. You unpack and realize you’ve forgotten the magic ingredient for your salad. You think to yourself, “no worries, I’ll just grab a pear off this tree.” Is this a realistic goal? Is this even possible in our city? We look forward to finding out.

The Team

Evan Duxbury – A dietitian in training with an interest in sports, sustainability and marketing, Evan brings years of communications experience to the team and will lead the writing efforts.


Michael Annejohn – A rising star in the world of plant & soil science with a knack for project management, Michael is looking forward to developing our strategic plan.

Marika van Reeuwyk – Another “budding” plant & soil scientist, Marika’s educational focus is on wildlife conservation,  and gardening. Her skill with a camera will help the team capture key moments and achieve our communication goals.

Belle Wilaingam – From the Global Resource System department, Belle is our subject matter expert in the field of botany. Her interest in urban farming and governance structures will serve the team well.

Amy Zhang – An FNH major, Amy is passionate about nutrition and a healthy diet. Amy is a transdisciplinary thinker, and her ability to connect ideas across silos will be invaluable.

Group Interests 

First among selection criteria for our group, was creativity. The freedom offered by this project gave us the opportunity to create something that interests us and achieve something that we ourselves defined as meaningful. In this case, we chose something that gives us the chance to advance what we perceive to be a relatively unexplored opportunity for food production and food justice in Vancouver’s food system. Allen (2008) highlights a need to bring food justice to the forefront in our community food systems. Raising the possibility of delivering free, local produce to communities via a controversial project, which is considered vandalism in some circles, could do just that. 

Part of our excitement comes from the application of Asset Based Community Development to mobilize existing but unrecognized community assets (Mathie & Cunningham, 2003).  Adding food production capacity to the thousand of established trees in our community could be a relatively low cost, immediate and high impact solution. We are also looking forward to the experience of engaging a community partner, an learning more about the science and methodology behind the grafting technique

By the end of this project, we hope to have an initial assessment of the feasibility of grafting from a multitude of perspectives, some hands-on grafting experience and a deeper understanding of Vancouver’s “big picture” food system.

Partner Objectives

The late-to-bloom nature of this project is that we don’t start with an assigned partner. We have identified several potential partners and hypothesized interests:

  • Permaculture BC – Our project meets their criteria for sustainable regenerative human habitat. They may see our project as laying the groundwork for a future grafting related initiative of theirs.
  • Vancouver Fruit Tree Project Society – Focused on picking backyard fruit and distributing it to those in need, the Society may see our project as an opportunity to increase the amount of local fruit produced.
  • Tinka Orchard CSA – Already using grafting to hybridize trees, the Orchard may see our project as furthering its mission to connect communities with their food sources.

First Impressions

Thus far, the process has been surprisingly smooth. Our team reached a decision on a topic for our project on schedule and all of us seem to have found our roles fairly naturally. That said, we are painfully aware of the advantages that come with a pre-defined project and the work that will be required to catch up to other groups. The hastily-assembled feeling about this project led to some doubts about our ability to deliver value to a community member on the timeline that we have in mind.

Despite our concerns, we’re hopeful that our enthusiasm for this project will spread to our community partner and that we will be able to use their knowledge and experience to guide us forward. Given our relative inexperience with the subject, Ernest Sirolli’s strategy for listening to a community before taking action should come naturally.


Allen, P. (2008). Mining for justice in the food system: perceptions, practices, and possibilities. Agriculture and Human Values, 25(2), 157–161.

Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based community development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in Practice, 13(5), 474-486. doi:10.1080/0961452032000125857

Sirioli, E. (2012). What to help someone? Shut up and listen! TED Talk Presentation.