Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: quantitative surveys (page 1 of 4)

Statistical tea-test

A thank you note written on a returned landholder survey.

A sweet thank you note written on a returned landholder survey.

In my time doing interviews with farmers in Australia, Nova Scotia and the Falklands I have probably consumed a few hundred cups of tea.  Now I’m a coffee gal, generally, but it feels social to sit with a cuppa over an interview, and I like how it structures the interaction. There are clearer rules for having tea than there are for conducting interviews – particularly being the ‘subject’ of one. In fact, the protocols that do exist for interviews I don’t like, being too formal and seeming to frame the interviewer as the expert. When you accept a cup of tea, the farmer as host takes control of the proceedings, and as guest I become a grateful recipient of hospitality as well as their expertise.

Earlier this year, Simon and Mhari and I were brainstorming how to inspire a high response rate for a survey of a small farmer population (~n=225), that had to be a single mail-out for time reasons. Simon suggested including a teabag. So off we went. Boxes of English Breakfast were purchased and individually packaged envelopes included with each survey. We hoped farmers would come back from the barn after morning chores and do the short survey over a cuppa. Well, we’re just short of 12% completion rate so far, with only a trickle now coming in. Though we have had some sweet notes about the tea (see above), I think we can confidently say that tea is not enough of a incentive. Does this indicate a cultural change to coffee among farmers? Maybe a K-cup would have been a better idea. But it was worth a try.

Riparian management survey in prep

Mhari Lamarque prepares our new landholder survey on Riparian Management practices for mailout.

Mhari Lamarque prepares our new landholder survey on Riparian Management practices for mailout.

Great to see things have gotten moving towards our new Nova Scotia farmer survey. Today, lab team member Mhari (MREM 2016) started placing selected farmer addresses on the outgoing envelopes. These envelopes will be filled with copies of surveys when those are finally approved next week by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. This is the first time we will also be including a sort of incentive in the package: an individually wrapped teabag. We mean this as an indicator of how long the survey should take (i.e. steeping time), but also our hope that farmers treat themselves to a nice cuppa afterward. We’ll see how that plays out.

What farm fragmentation looks like in Nova Scotia

Our typology of Nova Scotia farm fragmentation based on the number of non-contiguous parcels and the time to drive across the two furthest apart parcels.

Our typology of Nova Scotia farm fragmentation based on the number of non-contiguous parcels and the time to drive across the two furthest apart parcels.

When I moved back to Canada from Australia, and started interviewing farmers in Nova Scotia, I was surprised at how small and fragmented their holdings were. I found myself wondering how this spatial pattern influenced their management. Does it mean that it is harder to think of a farm as an ecosystem, and manage accordingly? Or is it a boon for biodiversity, as remoter parcels are left to nature? I threw a few questions about farm fragmentation on our Marginal Land survey last year, and those preliminary results are now in, recently presented on a poster at ISSRM, Farm as ecosystem: What is the impact of fragmented property ownership on farm management? It show us that fragmentation in Nova Scotia is intentional, the result of purposeful land acquisition by serious farmers. While it cannot be ascribed to fragmentation alone based on the data we collected, these high fragmentation farmers were less likely to have ponds and wetlands on their properties (as a function of farm area), though they had just as many woodlands, which are seen to have high ecosystem service value (timber, etc). Moreover, high fragmentation farmers were less likely to undertake biodiversity-friendly farming techniques. I think this is enough to suggest more research is warranted. Next time I want to look for diversity within farms. Does the farmer treat far-flung parcels differently than those closer to the heart of his operations?

If I were NB Power …

The previous post received a constructive reply from George Porter, head of the Mactaquac project for NB Power. He gave responses to some of the explicit questions I asked (excerpted with permission):

Q             Who would own the land uncovered if the dam was removed?‎

A             NB Power owns the vast majority of this property and is taking no position at this time as to what it would do with the land after a dam removal.  Should the dam be removed, NB Power anticipates that an extensive multi-party planning exercise would be undertaken to establish an appropriate approach to land disposition, development, and use.

Q             How might post-dam remediation proceed and how long does it typically take to stabilize and green up?

A             This is explored in detail in the draft Comparative Environmental Review report posted online September 21, 2015. Chapter 9 is available for you here.

Q             What is left down there, in terms of infrastructure, cultural sites, or sediments (and their associated environmental legacies such as chemical residue or toxins from upriver industry and agriculture)?

A             Some of these subjects are being explored by the Canadian Rivers Institute. As their research is completed it is being made public on their website.

Q             How do the First Nations communities feel?

A             It would not be appropriate for NB Power to unilaterally assess and articulate how the first nations feel about the project.‎  Since 2013, NB Power has been engaging with First Nations in a separate and deliberate process to ensure their rights and interests are considered in advance of the recommended path forward.

He also invited further explanation of my critique, as well as suggestions for how to improve the process. I sat down on the weekend to reply. Here is the full text of my response.

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