My research investigates how global change influences rural socio-ecological systems. I push the boundaries of current debates in feminist political ecology, geography, and agroecology.
From Farmers to Foodies: Healing the Metabolic Rift Between Hudson Valley Farms and New York City. As part of a “relocalization” effort aimed at combating globalization, boutique agricultural products have allowed increasingly environmentally friendly farming practice adoption (DuPuis & Block, 2008). Pathways between urban residents and nearby agricultural spaces and products can serve to “de-alienate” city dwellers from their food and heal the metabolic rift (a disruption of social, ecological, knowledge, and commodity flows) that occurs with an increasingly industrialized agriculture (Mcclintock, 2010). It can help create “food citizens” that understand the impact and importance of food choices, and continually make sustainable choices (Wilkins, 2005). Building on previous work that unpacks the organic-conventional dichotomy (Shennan et al., 2017), this research aims to understand how local rural identities are tied to (or divorced from) sustainable farming practice adoption in the Hudson Valley of New York, and how that knowledge is then imparted to New York City country visitors.
Using an intersectional approach, the research uses qualitative methods to understand why farmers choose to adopt environmentally friendly practices, and the tangible and intangible benefits these practices have on their lived experiences. Similarly, this work explores visitor’s experiences at apple-picking orchards, farm-to-table dining locations, educational farms, and farmer’s markets, to elucidate the connection between the rural and the urban. There are a wide variety of experiences in the Hudson Valley, from the increasingly expensive boutique farm enclave that creates barriers for precisely the urban population that needs food system knowledge the most, catering to affluent New York urbanites, to the deeply committed non-profit educational farms that explicitly reach out to inner city youth. This study aims to 1) evaluate and establish a working research relationship with a variety of farms in the Hudson Valley; 2) develop strong connections with two or three farms to eventually create a Community-Based Learning course at MC; and 3) conduct surveys to determine how these farms are practicing sustainability beyond Certified Organic, and how these practices relate to individual farmers’ identities.
Blue Collar Scholars. Straddlers, strangers, laborers in the knowledge factory, contradictions - these phrases have been used to describe working-class people who go for a PhD (Lubrano, 2004; Tokarczyk and Fay, 1993). It is a daring feat to cross class boundaries in the United States, despite the American Dream being pumped into our working-class minds throughout childhood. But what are the cultural, financial, and emotional costs of venturing into academia? Blue Collar Scholars is a social justice project for all working-class college students looking into graduate school. It is an attempt to expose the black box of masters and doctoral education for those with aspirations to enter it. My research partner, Dr. Megan Goodwin-Germano (Psy.D., Stanford University 2010), and I will discover the motivations, experiences, and conclusions of graduate students and postgraduates who come from working-class backgrounds and dare to enter the academy. The goal of this project is to write a publicly-accessible book detailing the pitfalls and possibilities of higher education for working class individuals.
My dissertation research broadly explores the physical and social processes of agrarian change in the Vietnamese Mekong River Delta from 1990 to the present through irrigation infrastructure, rice production, and the subsequent impacts on the socio-environmental system. I address the question: how has agrarian change shaped gendered agricultural production in the Vietnamese Mekong River Delta? I use a combination of political ecology field methods and remote sensing desktop analyses to understand broader regional changes and their local effects. I use remote sensing to contribute a geographic account of water-saving policy adoption; household survey data to evaluate the gendered dimensions of on-farm practices that contribute to larger patterns of rice intensification; and in-depth interview to explore how men and women negotiate constructions of “reproductive work” in the context of migration and remittances.
Sustainable Intensification. The piece is a gender disaggregated household and plot-level study exploring on-farm practices to determine if gender and remittance patterns are drivers of sustainable practices in the Tien Giang Province. The study uses a multivariate probit model to understand the covariance between sustainable and intensified practice adoption by gender. Male- and jointly-managed plots are significantly more likely to adopt less popular sustainable practices such as intercropping, using mulch, composting, and integrated pest management. Male-managed plots, on average, also receive eight times the remittances as female-managed plots. Results indicate that access to extension training, education, and credit constraints have an impact on sustainable practice adoption. Further, results underline the stark difference between male and female access to remittances as a means to applying sustainable production policies. This research is being submitted to the People’s Committee of Vietnam to help shape more effective sustainable agricultural policy through gender-specific training.
The Portable Family. A smaller qualitative study, this research examines gender roles in the mobile rural families in which women migrate or commute for work. The article takes a feminist perspective on the production and reproduction of gender at this stage in the agrarian transition. Using grounded theory, the article explores how and why women migrate to cities or local factories for work. It investigates how men and women continue to perform traditionally male and female tasks, in spite of their separation, and how this process in negotiated through necessity or fealty to convention. Finally, this article explores how men and women are disrupting these conventions, also due to the mobile nature of the new rural family life.
Alternative Wetting and Drying Adoption. The objective of my current Alternative Wetting and Drying (AWD) project in the Vietnamese Mekong River Delta is to determine the geographic extent and degree of AWD adoption in the Provinces of the Mekong River Delta (MRD) in Vietnam to inform ongoing policy changes at the national level. Under the effects of climate change, water scarcity will be a main concern for Asian rice producers in the dry season. The AWD technique can save farmers from expensive pumping costs that accumulate from watering rice every two to four days. Regionally, applying AWD could conserve fresh water resources and either extend the growing cycle during the dry season or expand rice production areas. Results will be submitted in a policy brief to the Plant Protection Department (PPD) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to improve AWD promotion efforts. I presented my geospatial methodology at the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR) Conference on Innovative Methods for Measuring Adoption of Agricultural Technologies in August 2016. Support for this work comes from the Standing Panel on Impact Assessment of the CGIAR.
I work with Nong Lam University in Ho Chi Minh City for the majority of my research. I have built a unique team of undergraduates, graduates, and professors since 2013.
For my geographic imaging projects, I also partner with the Center for Integrated Spatial Research (CISR) at University of California, Santa Cruz.