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2022 Research Agenda

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

FrontLine Farming | Center for Food Justice and Healthy Communities

Purpose Statement:

FrontLine Farming’s mission is to create greater equity across our food system on the front range of Colorado. While we approach this work with the framework of food access, food justice, and food sovereignty, we undertake research each year that helps us journey toward action and change. This research agenda recaps some of the analysis and publications we accomplished last year and outlines our aspirational work in 2022 that will provide us the knowledge needed for our pursuit of greater equity, liberation and sovereignty.

Research Approach:

We take seriously the fact that data often represent individuals, sometimes in less than obvious ways. For example, numeric wage data have human beings tied to each data point who deserve to be considered in economic analyses. As such, we approach all our research, data collection, education, and policy initiatives through a Community-Based Participatory Action Research methodology. We believe that the best informed findings, outcomes, and impact center community at all stages of the data lifecycle and we are committed to creating space and time for all stakeholders, especially those represented in the data, to engage in this work.

Focus Areas

  1. Metrics for assessing and furthering racial equity in the Colorado Agriculture/Food System

  2. Data on Black Indigenous and People of Color in the Colorado Food System

  3. Water rights in Colorado

  4. Pathways to data sovereignty

Focus Area 1: Baseline metrics of racial equity in the food system in Colorado

In 2020 and 2021, we worked with students in University of Colorado, Boulder’s Masters of the Environment program to analyze various metrics of racial equity in the food system in Colorado. Students generated academic research papers to provide insight and recommendations about how the metrics set forth in Michigan State University’s “Measuring Racial Equity in the Food System: Established and Suggested Metrics” apply to Colorado’s food system. These papers were in turn digested by FrontLine’s leadership team, similar to an academic review process, to assess the logic and accuracy of the suggestions proposed by students.

In this coming year, these papers will be translated into a public facing document geared to a non-academic audience of food system practitioners. This document not only will elevate a cross section of metrics for Colorado’s specific context, but also identifies certain new metrics that were not included in the original 86. Furthermore, since other organizations in Colorado (eg. Blueprint to End Hunger) are focused on research, data and metrics related to food access, we have tightened the focus of our analysis to racial equity in food production labor and food and farm business. A draft will be released in March 2022 and a final document will be published during that following summer.

Lastly, an insight that was elevated from our student researchers was that 6 of the 9 equity metrics assessing the food movement were “suggested”, meaning there were no established data sets for the metric. Within the nonprofit community in Colorado, we are aware that some, if not most of these suggested metrics exist as private datasets collected by funding organizations through their grant applications. In 2022, our research team will work to identify two to three state-wide funders who are willing to provide anonymized datasets generated from their food, hunger, or agricultural grants or donations in order to continue this analysis.

Focus area 2: Data on Black Indigenous and People of Color in the Colorado Food System

We define data broadly to include diverse forms of quantitative and qualitative data, including ethnographic and narrative forms. Even under this broad definition, there is a dearth of data representing the many people of color who participate in the Colorado food system.

2.1 Data on Agricultural Workers in Colorado

Between 65-73% of all agricultural workers are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. However, these people have been invisible in the media, in policy, and in academic research. The nature of seasonal work and migratory lives, as well as long established racist notions of whose experience and voices have value, has presented barriers to gathering data on this subset of food system labor. This has created a blindspot on the truth of inequity in our food system. To address this, we have partnered with Project Protect Food System Workers (PPFSW) in 2020 to provide them data services including data collection design, data management, analysis and reporting. Our desired outcomes on this project is to increase knowledge about the reality of Colorado agricultural workers and provide communities with data that can further their efforts of liberation.

Our work with PPFSW in 2021, specifically their Project Protect Promotora Network, included managing and analysing the data collected on agricultural workers in Colorado. During this past year we curated and maintained a data dashboard for the Project Protect Promotora Network’s programmatic field data and produced six bi-monthly reports that provided periodic program updates and deeper dives into the qualitative data being collected. These reports can be found on the resources page on PPFSW’s resources page. See the March and April 2021 report and the September and October 2021 report as specific examples of our impactful data storytelling.

In 2022, we will continue to maintain the data systems and data communication in place, and improve data infrastructure in affordable ways. We also have plans to launch a digital community archive that will collect and catalogue agricultural workers’ stories. The archive is titled, esencial. This project is a collaboration between FrontLine Farming, PPFSW and University of Denver’s Ethnography Lab (DUEL). This undertaking includes the training of community ethnographers in the Project Protect Promotora Network. We envision this work as a vehicle to open space for community members and artists to curate exhibits and create art that is based in data storytelling. The archive can be used as both a presentation platform for stories and a research tool for those looking to take a closer look at the realities of equity in our food system.