This research aims to explain how the spatially located community of metropolitan Melbourne is able to garden for their own self-sufficiency using sustainable methods and inputs. The research methods and data collection techniques used attempt to piece together some of the major themes and variables affecting community ability.
A simpler line of questioning compensated a large terrain to collect primary data from. A flexible and pragmatic approach and broad semi-structured research questions allowed the large terrain, in both spatial and conceptual terms, to be covered in this research investigation. Results resemble a conceptual mapping of the research question. It contributes significantly to spatial understanding, but there are many more gardens and opportunities in Melbourne to explore.
The research involved determination of the various avenues of gardening available to the community, and sectors or demographics in the community. The aim was to find garden projects that could represent the varieties of communal gardening in Melbourne. This could be more comprehensive with a longer study phase, but evidential trends were captured in this report.
With broad multidisciplinary secondary literature to draw from, a holistic research approach was undertaken, and became difficult to contain. If, as the trends suggested in this research continue, we may be at the beginning of an explosion of interest towards gardens for food security.
A variety of divergent gardens and organisations were contacted for input and there was a healthy response in the timeframe. Through this, a snapshot was able to be gained of what is available to community members. An inclusive consideration of community sought to judge how members of the community, including those more disadvantaged, are catered for.
Respondents to this research all come from a community garden and/or are active in community organisations that have affinity with developing self-sufficiency gardening. The order and emphasis of variables and opportunities in the research findings were guided by this expertise.
Following is an explanation on how primary data was obtained through multimethod techniques, and briefly, site selection criteria of site visits.
3.1 DATA COLLECTION
Data sources were purposively selected. A dual approach of field and desk based techniques were undertaken for primary data collection, through site visits and online email contact. Data collection techniques relied strongly on site visit interviews and email questionnaires. Some phone interviews were undertaken where convenient or preferred by respondents.
Home gardeners were canvassed through hard copy questionnaires at garden meetings for some feedback. Site visits included gardens and garden orientated events. Key speakers at forums, community gardens and garden open days were also observed. This triangulation served to reinforce the following research findings, but attributes and weaknesses of each technique may affect the scope.
Therefore there is less emphasis on quantifying the number of responses, and more on evaluating the common narratives contained in the primary data. This multimethod approach further allowed for participants to be questioned for as long as they chose.
3.2 SITE VISIT SELECTION
Selection of site visits were based on:
Logistics (ie. is the example going to be accessible in the study frame)
Diversity (ie. does the example offer a different contextual setting or involve a unique sector of the community in comparison to other examples.)
Due to so much activity across the study terrain for developing sustainable, self sufficient gardening, logistics were a barrier to finding diversity. Site visits enabled direct contact with garden organisers or participants, but also played an important observational role, which helped to develop a spatial understanding.
Possible respondents were also contacted via email. A holistic online search considered a broad range of possible respondents, and some personal contacts and their referrals were also utilised. Without an electronic approach, respondents across Melbourne could not be considered.
Brief semi structured interviews conducted at site visits used the same question schedule as the email questionaire but have allowed for extra clarification in some responses. Dunn (2005) explains the strong reasons to employ interviews, including their ability “to fill a gap in knowledge that other methods…are unable to bridge”; “to investigate complex behaviours and motivations”; and “to collect a diversity of meaning, opinion and experiences”. (Hay, ed. 2005, p.80) These are all valid to the research question and topic I am investigating.
Most but not all respondents to this research were asked about trends and variables in relation to sustainable, self-sufficient gardening in the community. Respondents were not given definitions or geographical boundaries of community, but the far majority resided and were active amongst gardens in Melbourne.
Some respondents did not comment on these questions due to time constraints in the field, or the need for investigation of other spatial themes and questions under investigation. Other non responses suggest the small amount of respondents recorded in this data that were unsure on answers could be considerably more. Some respondents did not respond due to a lack of confidence in being comprehensive or a lack of available quantified numbers.
Relevant quotes from key garden event speakers listened to live during the study process, are included throughout the research findings to enhance the themes found amongst interview and email responses. Overviews and narratives offered by key speakers have strikingly echoed overall feedback from research question participants.
Definitions allowed themes to be explored but all definitions used in this research including ‘self-sufficiency’ ‘sustainable’ ‘organic’ and ‘community’ and ‘therapeutic’ are limited. However, the accounts that were given offer a substantial qualitative evidence base.