Urban Farming Autoethnography

The concept of Urban Farming is the growing or producing of food in heavily populated and urbanised areas such as cities and towns (Greensgrow 2019). The idea is to provide cost-effective methods of food growth in densely populated areas while keeping procedures eco-friendly and sustainable.

For the collaborative group project in BCM320 – Digital Asia, my colleagues, Susie Alderman, Sunny Commandeur and I concentrated on our autoethnographic experiences with Urban Farming in relation to Asia specifically. Autoethnography is defined by Ellis et al. (2011) as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience”. Our autoethnographic methodology focused on thinking about our experiences in hindsight, also known as having epiphanies. The autoethnographic methodology is covered in greater detail on my blog, here and here.

This post will analyse the specific epiphanies that I thought about while researching this topic. Our project featured two main field sites where our data was collected and our most significant epiphanies took place. The first was the physical field site where we created our own Urban Farm using recycled bottles.

This field site was chosen as it allowed us to actually experience what it was like to use innovative methods of gardening and planting our own crops to grow food. We felt this was important when looking at Asia specifically for this project. I imagined that not many citizens in countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea would have access to the necessary land to grow their own food in a traditional farming fashion, so a garden setup like ours would likely be the most viable option.


The Urban Farm created by Susie Alderman, Sunny Commandeur and I

Twitter was used as our secondary field site, specifically to participate in a live tweeting experience with Susie and Sunny while viewing a 2014 documentary on Urban Farming called ‘Plant This Movie’. We decided to live tweet while watching the documentary so we could communicate our epiphanies as they happened. The documentary was an effective tool to not only learn more about Urban Farming as a practice, but also understand how it’s undertaken in different cultures. Our live tweeting session took place on the Twitter hashtag #BCM320UF (BCM320 Urban Farming).

The first key epiphany was learning that Urban Farming isn’t just limited to growing crops in densley populated areas, as other forms of growth such as lawns are considered an aspect of Urban Farming.

Another thought I had while watching the documentary was how central the idea of community was in relation to Urban Farming, with citizens constantly stating how important collaboration and cooperation is to the practice.

Finally, when specifically considering Asia I was surprised to find out how common Urban Farming was in heavily populated cities in countries such as China. The statistics from the documentary made me think about how similar the experience with our own Urban Farm would’ve been to the citizens who use any free land available to grow their own food in Asia; while also feeling that same sense of community that the other documentary participants described.

Reference list:

Ellis, C, Adams, T & Bochner, A 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, art. 10, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095#gcit>.

Greensgrow 2019, ‘What is Urban Farming?’, Greensgrow, viewed 9 October, <https://www.greensgrow.org/urban-farm/what-is-urban-farming/>.

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