After completing our “Scope of Work” last week, we have spent this week focused on taking the foundational steps to move the project forward and preparing to truly start getting involved with the Fair Oaks Health Center and the surrounding North Fair Oaks Community.
As defined by our “Scope of Work,” our goals for Week 5 were to build our survey for the Fair Oaks Health Center patients, staff members, and North Fair Oaks community members. In addition, we wanted to plan the logistics of conducting a focus group with the Fair Oaks Health Center staff members, and work with Priscilla to set up a focus group or individualized interviews with a few patients as well so we have detailed anecdotal data to supplement the more quantitative data we receive through the survey. After conducting several drafts of the survey on our own, we have sent a version of the survey to Priscilla for her review, so that we will be prepared to start testing the survey next week. In addition, we have worked to identify times for focus groups, and are in the process of contacting Priscilla regarding the scheduling and logistics (including identifying how many patients and staff we should try to talk to, and developing a flyer and incentivizing these individuals to come) for these two sessions.
This work around the survey and focus groups was the main milestone for Week 5, but we have also been in the process of working towards other future milestones as well. We have focused on collecting more information around setting up farmers markets in low income communities, including following up with Collective Roots (after an interview conducted last Friday) about the East Palo Alto Farmers Market and the idea of a partnership between Collective Roots or another similar nonprofit organization and the Fair Oaks Health Center to guide the new farmers market management. Our contact at Collective Roots will be proposing the idea of a partnership with the Fair Oaks Health Center to the Collective Roots staff in their team meeting on Monday and getting back to us, so we will know whether or not to contact Priscilla about this idea– which is something she mentioned she would be interested in–early next week.
Our efforts to gather the necessary information to move forward with this project have also included making phone calls to the SMC Ag Commission with questions about the application and required maps, and brainstorming a list of data points we hope to collect through GIS/Business Analyst, so we are well prepared to utilize this resource and can set up an effective meeting with Patricia Carbajales.
What You Observed and Learned
This week, the most important new insights we gained came from the interviews we have done in an effort to find out more about farmers markets in similar communities. In our call to Collective Roots, our contact emphasized many of the challenges they have faced, and made it clear that the management of even a small farmers market takes a great deal of time in order to incentivize both community members and vendors to participate so that the market stays financially stable. Interesting incentive programs used by Collective Roots include a “Double Bucks” program, where Collective Roots matches dollars up to $20 per month for families who use WIC or food stamps at the farmers market and a CSA program where Collective Roots buys bundles from the vendors and sells to individuals outside of EPA with a higher purchasing power and willingness to pay to make the market worthwhile for the vendors. Although these programs do incentivize participation and insure greater revenue at the market, the administration of these programs takes a lot of work. We learned that the operation of the EPA Farmers Market (which has only 2-3 vendors) takes 20 hours a week dedicated by a Market Manager, and 12 additional hours added by other staff members working on market management, publicity, and incentive programs. Although a bit discouraging, this information will be incredibly useful when we work with Priscilla to determine the Fair Oaks Health Center’s plan for market management, since before Priscilla was unsure as to who would be responsible and how much time they would need to dedicate. In addition, Collective Roots will be getting back to us about whether they might be interested with partnering with the FOHC in the establishment of the farmers market, so we may be able to report back to Priscilla with this as an option for market management.
This interview with Collective Roots was also particularly useful in informing our survey drafts. For example, we learned that the East Palo Alto Farmers Market, which has moved several times, has been most successful at the Ravenswood Health Clinic, but Collective Roots have found that the clinic staff really haven’t participated in the market at all, so it will be important for us to make sure to ask whether each respondent is a patient or staff member so we know whether the staff are willing to support and attend this farmers market. Overall, the information we have gathered from Collective Roots, Jerry Lami the Executive Director of the West Coast Farmers Market, and the SMC Ag Commission has been very helpful in preparing us to take the next steps in our community outreach.
In class this week, our discussions and readings about Plan Bay Area tied in to our project through because North Fair Oaks is one of the locally-nominated Plan Bay Area priority development areas. We learned that North Fair Oaks has received planning funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission intended for funding their updated community plan. This information provided us with more context information around what resources are behind the community of North Fair Oaks currently, and the context around the inspiration for the current North Fair Oaks Community Plan, which in fact recommends a farmer’s market.
We appreciated the opportunity in class this week to reflect on our identities, the negative impact of making assumptions, and the importance of bridging differences. Following the discussion led by Carly, we found ourselves reflecting on the commonly-held assumptions that farmers markets are for wealthy people, and thought about how best to approach community members so that they feel that the farmers market would be inclusive and inviting. In negotiating how best to approach community members when we enter the health center to conduct surveys, one concern that came up was what language to address the patients in, since 70% of the patients are monolingual Spanish speakers, but we also don’t want to make assumptions (especially wrong assumptions) about what language each individual patient speaks. We are thinking that the best thing to do will be to ask if they prefer Spanish or English (in Spanish since a majority are Spanish speakers) as we approach, then go with whatever language they are most comfortable with. We appreciated the insight in class that this first contact will not be the most important part of the conversation, and that instead we need to focus on building trust and showing respect throughout the rest of the conversation, once the patient has identified what language they wish to converse in.