“I’m super grateful to have received the Student Project Grant from Quest! Conducting research like this is not easy or affordable, and I am so grateful for the help and support I’ve received to carry out this project.”
Sami Bierman ‘20
Tell us about the project you’re working on. Why is this research important?
I’m working at a vertical hydroponic farm in Jackson, Wyoming. In addition to providing year-round local produce, the farm employs almost thirty community members with different abilities. I was initially interested in the project because it combines both environmental and social issues.
My research seeks to document and understand the lived experiences of the employees working at the farm. To do this, I gave participants disposable film cameras and asked them to show me what their job means to them. This participatory method is called Photo Voice and was developed to empower marginalized populations to share their stories and define the parameters of the research.
Combined with interviews with various community members, I hope to holistically assess the impacts of this model. Findings from my research will help to inform other projects like this one, that are currently being replicated in Lancaster and Chicago.
How did you first get involved in this work?
I knew about Vertical Harvest because I grew up in Montana and heard about it when it was first being constructed. I remember seeing it for the first time before I came to Quest and thinking: wow, this is the kind of thing I want to be doing with my life. Creating innovative solutions to environmental and social issues.
When I was scrambling for a Keystone in my third year, I reached out to one of the founders and went to Jackson in person to pitch my research project to them. And they accepted my offer! Having support from the institution where I’ve been doing my research has been so helpful.
Have you learned anything interesting from your research so far?
It’s taught me to slow down and forced me to really look at my own assumptions and judgements.
For the last three years I’ve been studying and reading about human geography and neoliberalism etc. Though I had encountered these topics on paper, it was an interesting experience to realize how deeply engrained principles are in my mind and in my day-to-day actions.
Working alongside people with different abilities challenged these assumptions and principles. I can’t say I’ve fully unlearned all these things, but it’s been eye-opening to confront these tendencies within myself, and to question whether they’re serving me or not.
What are you plans for life after Quest?
My family keeps asking me the same question.
Haha, oops! Well…?
I’ll return to Idaho for my third season of guiding on the Salmon river, and then it’s an open book! I’m considering a teaching job at a private alternative school, founded on principles of human ecology in Idaho, but who knows. I’d like to find work where I can continue to combine concepts of food/community/environment.
Looking back, what advice would you offer your first-year self?
Remember that most of your academic stress is self-induced, and don’t forget to take frequent study breaks to run in the rain and dance with your friends.
That’s great! What’s your favourite space on campus?
The rock behind the cafeteria that overlooks the Quest community garden. It’s one of the best places to sneak away from the library and watch the sunset. It’s always quieter over there.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m super grateful to have received the Student Project Grant from Quest! Conducting research like this is not easy or affordable, and I am so grateful for the help and support I’ve received to carry out this project. I also could not have gotten anywhere if it weren’t for the support of my advisor, Dr. Maï Yasué. Thanks, Maï.