Project Progress Part 2


Every day, we are faced with situations that require us to make compromises in order to achieve our goals. It could even be as simple as waking up late one morning and rushing to get to work on time. With only 15 minutes to get ready and out the door, you would probably opt for a simple breakfast like jam and toast rather than bacon and homemade waffles. Currently, we are facing a similar issue with our community project. After getting our project proposal feedback, our team had to re-evaluate how we would go about achieving our project goals with the time left in the term. As mentioned in our previous post, our plan was to finalize our survey and collect responses during the Sustenance Festival at Hillcrest Community Centre in addition to sending it out to the community garden mailing list through Joanne MacKinnon. Little did we know, this would be harder than we thought with just a little over a month left in the course.


Even in the lobby of a busy community centre in the heart of Little Mountain-Riley Park, we only managed to get less than 30 survey responses in 4 hours, and that was with the incentive of a chance to win a Nester’s Market gift basket. Our survey can be viewed here. The vast majority of survey responses indicated that participants were not interested in renting a community garden plot. With the slow response rate and low level of interest, it is hard to imagine that we will have enough information before we have to start writing our operations manual guidelines and final report. Even with online responses, we cannot guarantee that a survey alone would be enough to get an idea of community preferences. We need to think of an alternative.


Group 10 collecting survey responses at the Sustenance Festival. The event took place on October 18th at Hillcrest Community Centre.

So what?

This week in class, we listened to Dan Barber’s story about how he tried to replicate the complex but ethical method of raising geese for foie gras. Dan Barber is an established American chef known for his use of “farm to table” cooking and dishes that accentuate the natural flavours of fresh, seasonal ingredients. When he met Eduardo, the man who mastered the technique of raising ethical foie gras, he couldn’t believe that everything from the type of grass the geese ate, to the climate, mating, and overall freedom, were factors that contributed to the superior foie gras flavour.  Even after years and years of trying to replicate this process in New York, his efforts were unfruitful. Eduardo’s technique probably did not happen overnight, and most likely required years to perfect. Similar to our food-hub model, sometimes we just can’t expect success to occur immediately. It is easy to get swallowed up in the complexities and size of a project, which could lead to overwhelming stress. In these situations, the project scope needs to be adjusted to manageable parts that can eventually be integrated to create the final product. We do not want to compromise the quality of our project by biting off more than we can chew.

Now what?

After discussion with Joanne and the teaching team, we agreed that it would be best to start the survey process, but leave the data analysis for the next LFS 350 groups. That way we can focus on other parts of the operations manual while survey responses can continue to be collected online until an adequate sample size is reached. We realized that surveys are rather limited in the information they can provide. No matter how well a survey is designed, obtaining useful data is highly dependent on whether people choose to participate or not. At the Sustenance Festival, most people could not be bothered to answer 6 questions. Luckily we met Varouj, a landscape architect and LM-RP Food-hub planning committee member. He was very interested in how we planned to incorporate our data into the operations manual.  He also suggested that we contact other community gardens directly about how they have divided their plots among groups, individuals, and public commons, as an alternative to solely relying on the survey. This way, we can base our recommendations on what models are already known to work well. One of the significant moments this week was when Varouj suggested to work backwards and develop a “mind map” of events. For our complex system model, which involves the City of Vancouver, the LM-RP Neighborhood Food Network, funding, building contracts, grants, and much more, the path to the functional food-hub is not a linear one, but rather a winding, branching pathway with no singular “right” way to go. Realistically speaking, we can’t take this on all our own. We need to rethink our data collection methods and the parameters of our operations manual. One recommendation we got from the teaching team was to write an outline with recommendations and not a full-length operations manual. As outsiders of the community, and limitations in our experience and time frame, we need to step back and think of what is a reasonable amount of work that can be a positive contribution to the project overall.

It is ultimately a process that leads to another process. A system has many changing and moving components, and it is too easy to get swept up in the complexity of things and give up.

Our strategy for dealing with the overwhelming feeling of “scope-creep,” is to take things one step at a time and focus on a few components and do our best to make deep inquiries that can help the LM-RP Food-Hub project along.

A valuable lesson we learned during the Sustenance Festival was that the method of data collection for complex systems cannot always be confined to the limits of an online survey. As science students, we have become used to using the controlled methods often employed in scientific research. The importance of personal dialogue with community members has given us a better understanding of what people value.


Glass, I. (2011). Poultry slam 2011 – act 3: Latin liver. (Radio Archive).This American Life.

Project Progress

Our group will be attending the Sustenance Festival on Oct. 18th to engage with community members.

Hello and welcome back to our blog! We are excited to share with you the progression we have made in our community project since our last posting. Since out last blog posting, our main objectives for the project, outlined in our last post, have shifted due to a few key developments that we have had. With the help of the Rolfe et al.’s framework, we will critically reflect on a significant breakthrough that helped us redefine our objectives and give us a new understanding of our project.


The two original objectives described in our last posting were to define a mini food hub model for Little Mountain Riley Park as well as to create an operations manual that would be used by the LM-RH Neighborhood Food Network to govern and manage the new community garden. The first part of our breakthrough was our meeting at Hillcrest Recreation Centre. On September 22nd, our group met with our community partner, Joanne McKinnon (the coordinator of LM-RP Food Network), to discuss our project and get a better understanding of our objectives. Unfortunately, we left the meeting feeling more confused than when we entered, due to the fact that the meeting mainly covered the planning and organization of the upcoming LM-RP Sustenance Festival and we only briefly touched on the aim of our community project. This obviously left our group feeling disheartened, muddled, and stuck; we knew we couldn’t move forward until we had a much clearer understanding of our objectives.

The second component of our breakthrough was the feedback we received after presenting our project proposal to the class. After presenting the same two objectives we had formed at the initiation of our project, we received a very eye-opening response from our audience. It was suggested to us that not only one, but both of our objectives were beyond the scope of our project and that it would be in our, as well as our community stakeholder’s, best interest to simplify and remodel our aim.

These significant moments in the morphology of our project have taught us valuable lessons that we can bring forward to make our project more successful.

So What?

The experiences described above tell us that as a team, we are very focused on adhering to guidelines and rubrics that are set out for us and there exists among us a level of uncertainty around stepping outside of these guidelines and remodeling the scope of our work. Our decision to keep our original objectives in our project proposal despite lacking a true understanding of their scope was based on our fear of straying from our project description given to us by LFS 350. Similarly, our failure to see significance in the meeting with our community partner shows that we are too focused on exploring the exact objectives laid out in the project description to appreciate the opportunities that are provided to us in these meetings.

Much like Chef Dan Barber’s relentless attempts to produce ethically raised foie gras in New York, we must pause and consider whether components of our project are within the scope of our abilities and resources.  Although Barber is still continuing his journey to successfully raise “wild geese,” on his farm in New York, he realizes that there may be no humanly possible way to do it with the climate and predation that he is working with. Being aware of and honest about the limitations in any given project will benefit everyone involved and create a more efficient and successful project.

Additionally, Sisonke Msimang points out in her podcast that it is critical to listen to the people that you are working with in more ways than one. We must listen “not just to the words…but to the silences,” are words that parallel very well with our struggle to form a connection and understand what our community partner wanted from us during our first meeting on September 22nd. Because our group was so focused on delivering what our project description outlined for us, we failed to understand the importance of community engagement and the huge role that the Sustenance Festival would play in our mission to create an operations manual.

Now What?

Moving forward, our group is now comfortable with the idea that some aspects of our project may be beyond the scope of our mission and that we need to be flexible in order to make this project successful. At the end of the day, having a small deliverable that is actually helpful to our community partner is much more valuable than “biting off more than we can chew” and ending up with a deliverable that sticks to our original objectives but is not useful to the community.

Additionally, we now appreciate that all occasions to engage with our community members and partners are opportunities for us to gain valuable knowledge that will ultimately make our project stronger and more successful. Community-based project development must be a process in which all members have a chance to be heard, and all opinions and components are valuable parts of a collective project.

Our upcoming objectives are to further engage with the community members of LM-RP in order to better understand what they want to see in a community garden. We will be doing this by attending the Sustenance Festival on October 18th and asking community members to complete a survey they we have put together. In addition, we will be collecting information on recommended operations manual outlines by referencing successful community gardens from all over North America.

This should keep us busy until our next posting, thanks for reading!

-Group 10


Glass, Ira. (2011). Poultry Slam 2011: Act 3: Latin Liver. This American Life Podcast. Podcast retrieved from      

Msimang, S. (2014, Dec, 10). A Pragmatic Idealist. The Moth Podcast. Podcast retrieved from

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.