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Grant Park Farmers Market
Ethnographic Study

Duration: Sep 2022 - Nov 2022

Role: Ethnographer

Team Size: 4 members

Tools: FigJam, InDesign, Discord

Executive Summary

Grant Park Farmers Market
Ethnographic Study

This study was conducted with a team of three other students as part of a research project at Kennesaw University. Our team utilized applied ethnography, the study of culture for private sector use (Ladner 15), to answer our research question "What does the farmers market mean to you personally, as well as the community?" The research field that we chose was Grant Park Farmers Market located in East Atlanta, Georgia due to its ease of travel convenience.

From this, the team developed a cohering metaphor that stated that "Going to the farmers market as an adult is like going to the mall as a middle schooler". Overall, our team discovered that The Grant Park farmers market is where people come to feel connected/closer to their community by purchasing local goods from businesses in the area. Since they see (most of) the same vendors every week, this reoccurrence adds to their sense of community by allowing them to have some connection to a local business.

Team Members

Isaiah Williams

Team Lead | Ethnographer

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Nigel Jordan

Ethnographer

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Mateo Perez

Ethnographer

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Process

Our ethnography team embarked on an interesting study in order to ascertain the what, why, and how people within a certain community decide to seek alternative methods of shopping for goods. In order to achieve the answers to our initial question, we needed to gain access to our research field so that we could get up close and personal with the community with which we were inquiring upon. Since this was an open market that was accessible to the public, gaining entry was rather effortless.

We used the ethnographic approach as mentioned in the Sam Ladner's book Practical Ethnography in the Private Sector where she states "Observation is indeed an ethnographic method, but in ethnography it is complemented by clarifying questions and sit-down interviews" (Ladner 15).

Our team stationed ourselves within the general area of Grant Park Farmers Market and took notes via jottings. We wrote our jottings based on how we perceived and observed the field and everything/everyone within it. Each team member created individualized jottings according to their own separate interpretations. Additionally, we conducted in person interviews with market-goers to gain better insight to their habits and thoughts on why they visit this particular market. Later, we would organize these notes from observations and interviews into an affinity map to spot out trends and patterns that we believed to be the most relevant. This analysis helped the team to comprise the answer to our research question.

Recruitment

Each of our team members had a personal endearment towards farmers markets, which helped to further our aims towards this research initiative.

The team was paired together based on a mutual interest in farmers markets and healthy living. Each one of us pitched different research fields to study but ultimately, Grant Park Farmers Market became the topic that brought us together. Since this farmers market is always open to the public, there were no gatekeepers that needed to grant us access. Nevertheless, some obstacles we faced were being able to access the market due to crowds or traffic, and managing schedules outside of our college studies to complete field studies.

Fieldwork

When conducting fieldwork, we needed to become the research instruments. We needed to become the tools to collect the data. Additionally, our team had to walk in the shoes of the participants we studied.

Each team member spent 4-5 hours every Sunday gathering data in the field. We spent 4 weeks traveling to the market and meeting as a team.

Our team's fieldwork required us to make in-person observations and interview willing participants. These participants were asked questions from an interview script that the team collectively constructed about how and why they come to this market and what the market means to them personally.

Observation

Our team spent about 20 total hours at Grant Park Farmers Market to observe 4 sessions of field studies.

While in the field, each team member brought with them a mobile device to record their jottings on. This seemed most convenient for everyone since we walked around the field to capture different events and take pictures for our records. Not every field study session was the same but there were many regular occurrences with every visit we made. For one, Grant Park Farmers Market was very animal friendly! If someone who'd never been to this farmers market didn't know the intent behind this weekly event, then it'd be understandable to assume that Grant Park Farmers Market was a dog park. The amount of dogs brought to this farmers market became quite apparent upon our second visit and we could therefore make the assumption that pets could be considered a part of this community.

Secondly, we noticed that people did more than just shop for goods at the market. The market seemed like a suitable place to hang out and enjoy the outdoors with friends, family, or even alone. Although none of these activities changed our research question, we were able to gauge more deeply on how to answer it meaningfully.

The bread here is my favorite. It's cooked with so much love and care.

Interviewee 2

Farmers Market Vendor

Fresh Bread
Image by Fredrik Öhlander

I usually come for the dog treats because I know they aren't overly processed.

Interviewee 3

Farmers Market Shopper

Analysis

Once we gathered all of our data and conducted enough of our interviews, it was time to sort through everything to determine what was relevant. We headed over to FigJam to use an assortion of matrices so that we might organize our jottings together. An ordered matrix is a time-efficient way for the team to summarize our participants' journeys for the duration of the study. The matrices were separated between observations and interviews and even further organized by our conceptual categories which were designated based on patterns we collectively found from our jottings' sticky notes. The conceptual categories are as follows:

Vendors

This concept demonstrated the importance and roles that vendors had in the Grant Park Farmers Market community.

Sense of Community

This concept demonstrated how most participants behaved and perceived Grant Park Farmers Market

Accessibility

This concept demonstrated how Grant Park accommodated people who required special access to the market.

Specific Products

This concept demonstrated outlying events that brought participants to Grant Park Farmers Market.

After all of our data had been ordered and analyzed, the team formed what is called a coherent metaphor in order to relate our research question with our participants. Our metaphor is "Going to the farmers market as an adult is like going to the mall as a middle schooler".

Magazine

With our data gathered and analyzed, we were ready to write a final report on our findings which helped to summarize our assumptions, discoveries, and the answer to our research question.

Conclusion

All-in-all, the answer to our research question stated that the Grant Park farmers market is where people come to feel connected/closer to their community by purchasing local goods from businesses in the area. Since they see (most of) the same vendors every week, this reoccurrence adds to their sense of community by allowing them to have some connection to a local business.

This experience with conducting ethnographic research with a team of other amazing ethnographers was both rewarding and enlightening. I faced many challenges when trying to achieve a successful end result, some of the challenges being more personal than technical. Based on this experience, I have learned:

  • There isn't a such thing as irrelevant data

  • Every human experience is unique 

  • Your perspective as an ethnographer is just as important as the perspectives of the participants

I believe that we were able to work phenomenally as a team and this great team work brought about the successful conclusion to our research question.

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