Through a Summer Internship, he conducted a community-based action research project at Abbey Gardens in Haliburton.
Abbey Gardens is a 300-acre former gravel pit that is being rehabilitated into green space to provide economic and recreational opportunities for the local Haliburton community.
Kai is interested in how community projects can help improve the resiliency and growth of the rural community in Haliburton – specifically on improving the local food security through upgrading the hoop house.
The Board of Abbey Gardens selected a collaborative project with Trent University that would upgrade the existing hoop house.
A hoop house is a series of large hoops or bows, made of metal, plastic pipe or even wood — covered with a layer of heavy greenhouse material that is heated by the sun and cooled by the wind.
The upgraded hoop house would help provide fresh leafy garden salads and roots to meet the local community needs during the fall season.
The project was supported by Mitacs through the Mitacs Accelerate program, and takes place in 2 parts:
1) Physically upgrading the hoop house with the community
2) Collecting qualitative data to observe and understand how knowledge within a community is being created, shared, managed, and transferred – through the concept of ‘Community of Practice’ – a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly’ (Lave & Wenger, 1991).
For the first part, Kai participated in community activities including:
a) Digging a walipini trench (an underground passive solar style greenhouse)
b) Creating new raised bedding for better productivity within the hoop house
c) Providing double-wall insulation of the hoop house
d) Providing thermal mass through water barrels within the hoop house
e) Laying wrapped carpets as ground insulation around perimeter of hoop house to mitigate frost, and
f) Obtaining “Winter Seeds” that can withstand the cold weather in Fall.
For the second part, Kai collected qualitative raw data from three methods: in-depth interviews, participant observations, and document analyses.
In all, 23 interviews were conducted, 100 pages of field observations were written, (covering over 124 different group events and 9 group meetings) and many formal manuals and private documents related to the community were collected.
Kai spent 4 months at Abbey Gardens (May to August).
Together with the Haliburton community, Kai helped upgrade the hoop house and will start planting the Fall crops this September.As the project is underway, findings and results will arrive in late 2018 when the Fall crops are harvested.
The upgraded hoop house, with its unique combination of passive energy design and features, will help extend the planting season for Haliburton!
Kai’s project will generate more awareness for people who are open to the idea of volunteering in various local projects to better their communities.
The knowledge harnessed from such community projects must be retained and shared.
Kai’s hope is that people in every community will learn more about his project and work together to provide local food systems!
“Trent University, through the Sustainability M.A. program, has provided me with an experiential situated learning platform to reframe my paradigm towards appreciating action-based collaborative community research, in particular, on understanding the increasingly complex social relationships between human and its environmental contexts – via the emerging local communities of practice in southern Ontario.”