September 14, 2014

Upcoming Lecture: "The Human Dynamics of Engaging in Local Food Systems: A Farmers' Market and CSA Consumer Perspective"

James Farmer is an Assistant Professor in Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies within the School of Public Health. Farmer will be presenting his lecture, The Human Dynamics of Engaging in Local Food Systems: A Farmers' Market and CSA Consumer Perspective, this Tuesday at Finch’s Brasserie. A researcher of sustainable behavior, Farmer studies sustainable food systems, land conservation, and consumer behaviors in local food systems such as community-supported agriculture (CSA’s) and Farmer’s Markets.

Could you tell us about your lecture?

This lecture asks the question as to why do people engage or not engage in the two venues of CSAs and Farmers’ Markets. I try to gain a sense for what barriers might be in place that constrain or limit access--be it economic, cultural, or practical.

What I’m going to present on is data we collected in 2010 across the state of Indiana. We visited twelve Farmers’ Markets located in Bloomington, Madison, Richmond, surrounding areas of Indianapolis and northern parts of the state. We collected data from market consumers and people subscribed to CSA’s. We also collected data from people across the state that did not participate in either CSA’s or Farmers’ Markets. From these surveys, we assessed the values of those consumers.

What were some of the trends you saw among those who went to the Farmers’ Market?

Something like ninety-two percent of those who subscribed to CSA’s also go to the Farmers’ Market but only seven percent of those that go to the Farmers’ Market subscribe to CSA’s. Another thing is that people who subscribe to CSA’s are highly educated--around fifty-five percent had a graduate degree. That doesn’t reflect the normal population. Around forty-eight percent of CSA members had an annual household income of more than ninety-thousand dollars--which, the median household income right now is around fifty-thousand dollars in Indiana. There are some factors and issues of privilege. But there are a lot of CSA’s doing innovative things like changing the payment scheme and allowing for “ working shares” where members can work on the farm in exchange for part of their share. Many now offer subsidized shares as well.

And this is contrary to making one full payment at the beginning of the season, correct?

Exactly. That method has its benefits for the farmers but can sometimes limit the people that can engage with it. Proximity was another huge issue for those trying to attend the Farmers’ Market. For people who did not go to the Farmers’ Market, the closest market was about twice the distance than those who did go. It’s a convenience issue and we can’t have farmers markets on every street corner.

Most participants in our survey were younger. The CSA participants were notably younger with forty-four being the average age whereas Farmers’ Market participants were a little bit older. Ethnicity was predominantly white or caucasian--which is reflective of where the markets were located. There is a larger minority population in the Northwest part of the state but at that time there was only one farmers market within the Gary area. Now there are more markets in that region. If we conducted research again we may see more ethnic diversity.

Would that be attributed to an increase of Farmers’ Markets in general?

In the mid-70’s there was around nine markets in Southern California and now there are at least one dozen in L.A. County alone. It has grown an amazing amount. Between 1994 and 2012, there has been a four-hundred and forty percent increase in Farmers’ Markets across the nation. For CSA’s, it’s more difficult to give a percentage. The first two CSA’s emerged in the mid-80’s. Now the USDA indicates there are now twelve-thousand in the US.

Farmers’ Markets saw a decline in the late 1800’s and this was followed by a growth of grocery stores and supermarkets. The culture of the country was transitioning and markets kept declining. Farmers’ Markets hit the bottom in the 70’s--that is when there was the fewest markets on record. Part of their re-growth was due to an act passed by Congress promoting the distribution of excess food that farmers were producing. Some of the older Farmers’ Markets you see today were started around that time--one of them being the Bloomington Farmers’ Market.

What are some opportunities that are coming up for CSAs and Farmers’ Markets to make them more accessible?

Many Farmers’ Markets are now accepting SNAP and WIC benefits. For the past couple of years in Bloomington, the Community Farmers’ Market have provided a program where they double consumers’ market bucks. If you use eighteen dollars of your SNAP benefits at the market--it will be doubled to thirty-six dollars. Through donations and grants, the city has been able to offer that extra supplement to try and make these types of markets more accessible.

Stop by Finch’s Basserie this Tuesday, September 16th at 6:30 pm to hear more about CSA’s and Farmers’ Markets within the Bloomington community. Also, be sure to check the College of Arts and Science’s Themester Event Calendar to view a listing of upcoming lectures and discussions.

Stone Irr
Themester 2014 Intern

November 6, 2013

Upcoming Lecture: "How Do Social Networks Affect Your Health?"

Tomorrow evening, IU will receive a visit from Dr. James Fowler, who co-authored Themester's featured book: Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. In the following interview, Professor Armando Razo (Political Science), who assisted in the organization of Fowler's upcoming lecture, discusses the author's work and how it will feature into his talk this coming Thursday. Razo and Fowler are both members of the Political Networks (POLNET) section of the American Political Science Assocation (APSA).

Fowler relates social networks to obesity, depression, etc. In what ways might social networks affect your health positively?

Fowler and co-authors have studied both positive and negative effects. Perhaps the negative effects get more press attention, but just like bad health habits can be (socially) transmitted through networks, so can good habits. In fact, this line of research also shows that social networks can be very important for social support and emotional well-being.

The event description references a "Three Degrees of Influence Rule." What is this rule and how does it operate in Fowler's research?

This rule quantifies the measurable impact or "reach" of social networks on individual behaviors. Network analysts measure social distance by counting how many steps (degrees) it takes for one person to draw a connection to another. Direct connections are just one step away (e.g., someone's "friend"). Indirect connections take two or more steps. For example, it takes two steps to reach "a friend of a friend" and so on.

In particular, Fowler and Christakis argue with their "Three Degrees of Influence Rule" that somewhat distant people (up to a third degree) can have an impact upon us. Of course we know our friends, and we may even know our friends' friends. But it's less likely that we would know the friends of our friends' friends; that's why they say that we can be impacted by people unknown to us.

What is most interesting about Fowler's work to you?

James Fowler's work spans several disciplines in very interesting ways, so this is a hard question to answer. Among others, I would say that the most interesting aspect is the public policy implications of his research. That is, if we can establish that social networks matter for public health and other important phenomena, what can (or should) we do about it, either as individuals or societies?

For more information about Fowler's book, visit click here.
For more information about Fowler's lecture, visit our calendar.
Time and Date: 5:30 p.m., Thursday, November 7
Location: Whittenberger Auditorium, IMU

Amber Hendricks
Themester 2013 Intern

November 4, 2013

Ending Stigma, Changing Minds, and Saving Lives through Mental Health Advocacy

Professor Bernice Pescosolido (Sociology), discusses the upcoming Glenn Close lecture, "Ending Stigma, Changing Minds, and Saving Lives through Mental Health Advocacy." Pescosolido served as both as an organizer of the lecture and as Chair of the Themester 2013 committee. She is also the Director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research.

How will Close's lecture engage themes of networks and connectedness?

There are two unique aspects of Bring Change 2 Mind that make it uniquely connected to what we do here at Indiana University. First, BC2M is one of the few advocacy organizations closely tied to science and research in all of its efforts. This makes our mission of Themester and the work of BC2M tied not only in terms of building connectedness between IU and the national advocacy efforts, but also in terms of Glenn Close's message and direction. She is focusing on ending the stigma, isolation, and lack of connectedness that people with mental illness often experience. Stigma hinders the search for treatment and the societal resources that go to mental health care because it results in prejudice and discrimination.

What is Bring Change 2 Mind doing to curb the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness? Where can people find the "Public Education Materials" that the organization distributes?

There are so many things that they are doing. It is hard to list them all. People share their stories on the website, which for many people is the first place they disclose their illness publicly. BC2M partners with organizations such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to bring visibility to the issue of stigma and discrimination through organized walks. They raise money for research to make their efforts are based on data that supports effectiveness. Glenn has been able to bring her star power to bear in terms of hundreds of hours donated by producers, directors, and other creative people to create messages and media.

To learn more about the organization, visit the Bring Change 2 Mind website.

For information about the lecture, click here to see our calendar.

Amber Hendricks
Themester 2013 Intern

October 23, 2013

How "Dessert and Discussion" Works

Photo credit: Indiana Memorial Union
As Marie Antoinette never actually said, "Let them eat cake!"

Dessert and Discussion is exactly what it sounds like. Students meet in the Tudor Room to enjoy as many desserts as their conscience will allow and to discuss Themester's topic with one of IU's distinguished faculty members. Already this semester students have had the opportunity to discuss the film And the Band Played On with Professor Rega Wood (Philosophy), cognitive networks with Professor Colin Allen (History and Philosophy of Science), and empathy in networks with Professor Fritz Lieber (Education).

The events present a unique academic setting for students. It's an atypical experience to listen as a professor explains something between bites of lemon meringue pie rather than between PowerPoint slides in Times New Roman. There's something different about learning as you slowly enjoy a slice of German chocolate cake rather than hastily scribble notes in a crowded notebook. The result is a conversation that is more comfortable and complicated than anything you'll get in the standard lecture hall.

At these discussions, ideas aren't just passed from professor to student. They are passed back as well, then picked up by another student, then passed around the whole table (along with a cookie or two). Soon everyone has given and gained some perspective on the topic.

At one discussion, for example, Professor Allen got the ball rolling by discussing how a network by itself can be useless, but what we do to the network--in terms of finding patterns, applying algorithms, and looking at movement--can tell us a lot. As students jumped into the conversation, they took this one idea and related it to networks in language learning, spying with metadata, and a spectrum of other subjects.

This is how a typical Dessert and Discussion goes. When we run out of time, everyone heads out with food for thought and thoughts of food.

Click here to register for the remaining discussions.

Ryan Myers
Themester 2013 Intern

October 14, 2013

Flashback: A Look at Themester Events So Far

Creativity and Collaboration in the Arts Series
Irish Music and Dance Workshop
Photo credit: Sarah Boyum
Themester has seen a wide variety of events so far. This season's line-up has included dance workshops, plays, lectures, film screenings, and art exhibits, all of which explored a diverse range of networks.

We kicked off the semester with two exhibits in the Grunwald Gallery. Imag(in)ing Science featured collaborative work that combined the efforts of artists and scientists, while Geist und Form featured the work of of ten Berliner artists who represented and discussed the rising art capital.

"The Top 1% of Neurons in the Brain
and Why They Do Most of the Talking"
John Beggs (Indiana University - Physics)
Photo credit: Alex Hughes
Our film series began with The Social Network, a fictionalized account of Facebook's origins. It was followed by And the Band Played On, which reveals how networks operated in and influenced the AIDS crisis. The Hunt showed next, a film that illustrates the drastic, damaging effects of a single lie within a small-knit community. Our latest installment in the series was Margin Call, a dramatized version of the 2008 economic crisis.

The season has also featured two theatrical productions thus far. Cardinal Stage Company's production of Lord of the Flies examined how connectedness is lost and changed in a group of stranded young boys. Bloomington Playwrights Project just wrapped its production of Sequence, which explored debates between luck versus fate, coincidence versus predetermination.

Imag(in)ing Science at the Grunwald Gallery
Photo credit: Alex Hughes
Lecturers and panels have discussed connectedness and networks as they pertain to romantic attraction, disease, international relations, and much more. Vincent Hendricks, for example, gave a series of lectures covering social epistemology, game theory, and financial crises. The Framing the Global Conference discussed evolving research in global studies.

We're only half way through the semester. There is plenty still to come! For a full list of our future events, refer to Themester's official calendar.

Amber Hendricks
Themester 2013 Intern