Diane Miller ACF Abstract FY11

"Using Spatial Technologies to Build Sustainable Garden Networks in Muskegon MI: a University and Community Collaboration"

Conference Name: International Conference on Civic Education

According to the American Community Gardening Association, community gardens are important for improving the quality of life for people in all walks of life through recreation, exercise, therapy, education, and the production of nutritious foods.  Community gardens also beautify neighborhoods, increase green space, create income opportunities, and stimulate intergenerational and cross-cultural relationships.  The purpose of this study was to investigate the different structures and processes within Muskegon County community gardens, and provide a communication mechanism to share best sustainable practices.  GPS-enhanced digital cameras and other Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology were used to identify and map the locations of community gardens.  Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology was used to, store, analyze, organize and display the data as dynamic thematic maps. A survey was conducted to investigate the structure of each garden. These datasets proved valuable for planning future community garden activities in the Muskegon community, and helped improve gardeners understanding of the community garden network infrastructure.   Building a network of community gardens enhanced existing networks, and created new ones. Integrating spatial and web technologies connected the current Muskegon community gardens and gardeners by introducing visual components to aid in collaborative problem-solving of a variety of garden and food issues. Shared public information was efficiently disseminated via a newly built website that encouraged the use of free internet communication software (Google talk, Picasa, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and Google mail) to provide information on soil, water management, plant selection, pest management, etc. Encouraging collaboration and communication among gardeners using GPS, GIS and ICT through a web interface provided a unique virtual space for people with similar interest’s to improve the physical, social, cultural and economic health of each neighborhood.

Diane Miller, Edwin Joseph