Local Gems: Farm Directory

Group Members:  Brandi Burns, Sarah Nash, and Stephanie Milne

       For our mobile history project, we chose to create an online directory of farms in the Treasure Valley. The intent of the project was to create a resource that could be used by consumers to find out more information from general searches of farms in their area to more specific searches for individual farms in the hopes of connecting consumers to locally grown food. For each farm we documented the history of the farm, the growing techniques used, the diversity of crops grown, and the availability for purchase. The directory can be viewed at: http://localgemstvfarmdirectory.blogspot.com/.

Process of Building Local Gems Project

       The building of Local Gems started with group members, Brandi Burns, Sarah Nash, and Stephanie Milne, brainstorming and collaborating over dinner at Red Feather Lounge. The initial building of our project required a lot of organization on who would be responsible for the various platforms we would be working with for our project. One of the first items of business we sorted out was the delineation of the social media platforms Local Gems would be working with. We came to the agreement that Brandi would be responsible for the Flickr account, Sarah would be in charge of the Facebook page and Twitter, and Stephanie would steer direction of the blog. From this point on each person was responsible for the establishment and maintenance of their respective account.
       Also at this meeting we decided to focus on farms in Ada and Canyon County. From here we narrowed our focus to five farms we would like to highlight. After all the platforms were established, we then set out on contacting those five farms. Our main avenue of communication with the farms was through email. We scheduled times to meet with farms and later in the project with others who have played a large role in the local food movement.
       All group members made a commitment to the best of their ability be in attendance at all farm visits to ensure accurate information was collected and a diverse questions were asked of the farmer or local food entity. With the three group members present it also ensured a diverse amount of pictures. All pictures were sent to Brandi the day of the visit or at the latest two days after the farm and local food visit.
        After a visit to a farm, one group member would be responsible for the writing of the blog post. This responsibility alternated each time so the writing duties were equal through the duration of the semester. After the post was complete, it was then added to Local Gem’s dropbox account and also emailed so that it could be peer-reviewed by the other group members. Corrections or changes (if needed) were done after this and then the post was emailed to the farm (or other local food entity) to be approved of before it was posted on the blog. After the local farmer or business approved the blog post, it was then posted to the blog. Once the post was viewable on the blog, updates were then announced on the Facebook and Twitter platforms.

Meeting Learning Objectives

        Our group outlined three learning objectives for the Local Gems project. The first objective was the desire to connect people, primarily those living in and around the Treasure Valley, to local producers and growers of food. We accomplished this goal by continually maintaining our blog and networking around the Treasure Valley. In the month of April the Local Gems: A Directory of Treasure Valley Farms had over 300 visitors and overall we have had over 420 page views since it went live in February. We’ve connected with people through business cards, posting the blog link to the Local Gems Facebook page as well as personal Facebook pages, Twitter announcements, and simply talking to people around the area, specifically at farmers markets. In conducting various types of networking we’ve achieved our goal of providing a face to local farmers. In some ways we have even gone a step further. Many farmers we visited with mentioned that they don’t know one another. Our blog serves as a starting point in having farmers in Ada and Canyon County get to know one another as well as how and what they are individually farming. Ideally, Local Gems could be a starting point for support groups for local farmers.
       Our second learning objective was close the gap between the seeming opposites of smartphone technology and the traditional practice of agriculture. This objective was attained in two major ways. First, our blog is set to a mobile friendly version. Whenever someone accesses the blog from a smartphone or iPod Touch, it is displayed in a mobile friendly manner. This makes it easy for someone on the go to learn about a specific farm or a new feature of the blog. Second, when the Local Gems group went out and met specific farmers, we explained how we were creating our project with mobile users in mind. Many were appreciative and understood that this user platform was a way to get more people interested and potentially purchasing their specialty crops.
        The last objective of the project was to increase the public’s knowledge about history of the foods our community eats. While the project did not focus on specific crops, we did highlight important aspects of growing and what traditionally works and doesn’t when it comes to farming in the Treasure Valley. Additionally we provided history on the farms and farmers themselves. Providing this historical perspective enable the project to display a farmer’s practices and more broadly how farms have evolved.

Sources Influencing Project

       Resources for this project included Idaho Preferred, the menus at Bitttercreek Alehouse and Red Feather Lounge, Idaho Department of Agriculture (organic list), County Extension Office—specifically Ariel Agenbroad at the Canyon County Extension Office, Farmer’s Market List/Websites, The Boise Weekly, and the Boise Co-op. Another valuable resource was Janie Burns from Meadow Lark Farm who is one of the leading voices in Idaho’s local food movement. The Treasure Valley Food Coalition website was consulted, as well as the Idaho Farm Bureau News blog and other farming-based blogs.

Challenges Faced

       One of the main challenges we faced in the project came from its participatory nature. Our work could really only begin once a farm agreed to be featured on the blog, which meant that it was dependent on farms returning our initial contact. Of the first five emails we sent, only two farms responded to our email. One of the reasons why they may not have chosen to respond was that the project had no visible achievements, meaning they could not see other farm’s profiles on the blog. The need for cooperation slowed us down in the beginning, but we have now begun working with local food organizations and have networked at various events and are establishing a relationship with local farmers. As it stands we already have our next interview of a farm to profile scheduled.
       Another challenge we faced was the use of multiple technologies. When setting up the project, we felt it would be best to set up as many forms of interaction with the community is possible. To do so, we created a blog, a Twitter account, a Flickr account, and a Facebook account. It could have easily become overwhelming and confusing if all three of us accessed and worked with all of the accounts. Therefore, we split up the accounts and made each individual person in charge of a different account. Stephanie is responsible for the maintenance of the blog, Sarah is responsible for the Twitter and Facebook accounts, and Brandi is responsible for the Flickr account. For individual blog posts, one person writes the rough draft and all group members edit and review it.

Future of Project

       The next step for our project is to do a strategic plan and decide how we want our project to continue. Several farmers and stakeholders in the local food scene have expressed to the group that we are serving a need, so at this point we need to evaluate our vision and be sure that we are not duplicating any services in the community. The idea is to phase the project into a farmer’s alliance that serves to connect local farmers with one another in a support group and a network of knowledge, and an advocate for farmers and food policies that support local food. This new direction would continue to include efforts to connect the consumer with the producer using mobile technologies and other innovative approaches. Our farmer’s alliance could model the Working Lands Alliance, an organization dedicated to preserving Connecticut’s farmland, and consists of farmers, conservationists, anti-hunger groups, planners and local food enthusiasts.
       To create the farmer’s alliance, the group will need to seek out other resources. By creating a non-profit, several grant opportunities should become available. It is possible that we could partner with the Treasure Valley Food Coalition instead of forming our own non-profit, but the search for funds would still need to continue. Several resources offer help on creating a non-profit and finding funding, particularly www.idahononprofits.org/Home.aspx and www.grantspace.org. After the semester ends the group will have a meeting about what our vision is, and if it is something that we can pursue. If we can pursue this new idea, then we will take the necessary steps to form a non-profit and begin the strategic planning stage.

Advice to Others

       The biggest piece of advice that we can offer is to network and follow it up with a strong internet presence. Through networking with people we know who work with local foods we have been able to talk to local restaurants, connect to farmers, meet with people doing similar projects, and create a relationship with the Treasure Valley Food Coalition. Janie Burns, a local farmer, was one of our best resources and by simply retweeting our posts on Twitter, she was able to direct a larger audience to our work. We also networked at local farmers markets and have gotten many people interested in the project through simply introducing ourselves and explaining our goals. However, networking alone would not have been sufficient because many of the farmers looked at our website before they decided to participate. Our Twitter and Facebook accounts have also been very successful at drawing people to our blog.

Mobile Devices and History

My final paper is the creation of a blog, so to answer the second part of Leslie’s email I have just paste what I wrote about why I chose a blog:

Blogging is one of the most democratic forms of media and I chose it because I think it is a great way for the historian to reach a wider audience. The History Blogging project, run out of the UK, talks about this on its website. While there are concerns about using blogs for active research, ie someone publishing your work before you after taking it from your blog, I think for those of us who do public history blogging is a great medium. To me, traditional history (no matter how much I love it) has always been a bit stand-offish. It doesn’t really need to interact with others. Public history is opposite. It not only needs interaction, it fails without it. But how to get others involved? History that can be done dynamically, whether on a blog or on television, can draw the audience in and by telling a good story, can get them interested in history.

Now, as the video points out, this in no way takes care of all history. We can’t be academic squirrels- “oh, look at the shiny new technology!” We have to still do solid reseach. But these new technologies are a new platform. They don’t just change the way we do history, they change history. I see them as a way for even more people to get interested in the topics that historians already love.

Blogging also has other benefits. The first is that I can update the blog regularly, in contrast to a paper of book which would have to be reprinted. Additionally, I can choose a variety of different women to profile and do not have to maintain a theme, such as “pioneer women.” So far, I have chosen women solely based on the criteria of my own personal interest in their story. The blog also allows me to have a closer interaction with my audience. Unlike a history book or journal, readers can comment directly on the blog posts and a dialogue can be created between the author and the reader. It makes history more participatory and I think that make history more interesting. In addition to the blog entries profiling different historical women, I am also planning doing another feature on women making history in Idaho. Due to the more fluid nature of a blog over a book, I can write about women who are currently working in addition to women from Idaho’s past.

One of the most difficult parts of making the blog has been finding resources on women in Idaho history. I have spent hours looking for texts on the subject, for journal articles, and websites. What I have found has been compiled into a short list of resources on the blog for anyone who wants to explore the topic further. It is frustrating because of the inherent catch-22 in the problem. I want to write more about women in Idaho history than has been previously written, yet there is not enough written history that I can use to direct my research. I need more history to write more history.

I plan on continuing this blog after our class is over. I have enjoyed having the ability to share my work with a wider audience than my professors and my peers. My hope is to one day use my research to write a more definitive and well-rounded book on women in Idaho History. I would encourage other history students to use blogs to discuss their research. While I would not publicize research they plan on publishing in its entirety, I have found it a fun way to make history more public.


When King talked about the common myth that most Americans have about their heritage sites being protected, when that is in fact not the case, I have to say I was one of those Americans. I guess I just assumed that if a place was valuable(though on what scale?) it would just seem obvious it would remain protected. And I admit, I never thought about it much further than that. I guess I thought that unnamed “they” would take care of it. So the book scared me. It reminded me of a quote I heard someone say recently, and upon which there are thousands of variations, that a problem is only as important as the people who see it make it. A building, site, etc. is only as important as the community it resides in deems it. I think what is interesting is: as Americans do we pick too many or too few sites for our heritage? I heard once that to Europeans 100 miles is long, to Americans 100 years is long. I think it is interesting to see not only how the sites are protected, or not, but also how they are chosen- which might be a bit off topic.

Baron Von Munchausen- a missed opportunity?

The article I found most infuriating was the response from the Manager of the Baron Von Munchausen Home to Larry Cebula. The quote that particularly irked me was this:
“The visitors that come to this House want to be entertained by “sayings” from the 18th century or “ghost stories”… You have to understand that the younger visitors know very little about the Revolutionary War period, due to the fact that schools have gone downhill and do not give this generation a good education…”

Isn’t this a reason for them to work harder to make their history the best it can be? For argument’s sake, let’s go with her claim that education is going downhill. If I ran a historical museum and I thought that students were not learning all that they should in their classrooms, I would try to make sure they at least learned some of it when they visited my museum. Theirs is a chance to help enhance an education. Schools are reluctant to talk about slavery? Well, the museum shouldn’t be. The manager does not see that dumbing down the history only compounds the poor education the students receive. Plus, I’m a little insulted at the insinuation that because I’m younger and use the word “like” I can’t possibly having the reasoning skills to deal with complex moral issues such as slavery.

Farm Directory Project

For our group project Brandi, Stephanie, and I decided to create a directory of local farms in the Treasure Valley. We named the blog “Local Gems” and have begun posting to it. So far we have one farm profile completed and another in the works. We hope to have a few more before class ends.

Check us out at:

Blog- http://localgemstvfarmdirectory.blogspot.com/
Twitter- http://twitter.com/LocalGemsTV
Flicker- http://www.flickr.com/photos/localgems_treasurevalleyfarms/

Reading suggestions

So apparently I saved this as a draft instead of posting it yesterday, so here it is:

I have three really cool history sites that I love to check out.

The first is the Food Timeline, which is a timeline of when different foods and recipes became a part of the human diet. And beyond that, you can click on the individual foods and the site gives an in-depth history of each food including its origin and how it was originally eaten. I have used it for my blog and have spent hours trying to figure out the history of my favorite foods.

The second site that I recommend is called Patheos, which is a site devoted to presenting balanced views of religion. Religion was one of my minors, so I really enjoy the study of it. The part of the site that I recommend is the “Compare Religions” tool which allows you to compare up to three religions side by side. It details their history and histroical practices up through modern day practices. I think it is a really helpful tool.

The third is the National Women’s History Museum’s website, specifically its online exhibits. There you can see everything from women in film to female spies in American history. It is a really great collection of American Women’s history.

Heritage Tourism

I found the chapter on heritage tourism very interesting. When I was younger one of my dream summer jobs was to be a tour guide and I think this is perhaps one of my favorite approaches to public history. I thought it was really interesting that the book discussed not only creating and interpreting a historical narrative for visitors but also for residents as well. In my own work on my graduate project I have found that people who work at the WCA have no idea of the amazing things the organization did when it was the YWCA. Many of the employees are just as excited to read their history as the public. I think when you live somewhere; you take its history for granted. What to others may seem fascinating may be common place for you. What for them is the corner were a great battle took place, is for you the corner where you meet you friends to go to coffee. History is all a matter of how you relate to. That is another reason why I am happy to see the newer- “quirkier”- types of tours that have begun cropping up in the last decade. Sure history is about the formal record of a place, but it is also about the informal or less perfect side of a place as well.

Luke, Chapter 3- Holocaust Museum

I suppose my problem with Luke’s critique of the Holocaust Museum’s “entertainment” side is that he discredits a form of publication based on the fact that it is also entertaining. In the field I want to be in, documentary filmmaking, it is understood that while history is important, its value is negligible if no one cares. I agree that media can trivialize an event. It happens in the news all the time. But it also has the ability to make it come alive. To many people history is a dead thing. It is something that occurred in the past and is thus of little consequence now. But media allows the historian to bridge this gap. If you can show someone a concentration camp and let them hear the stories of survivors, in their own voices, than maybe you can inspire them to care. And I believe that is the role of the Holocaust Museum. Yes, the Holocaust occurred in Europe. But atrocities, and mass death, are not a solely European thing. It is a human thing, and I think the Holocaust Museum allows us to examine that side of human nature and history is a way that not only provokes thought but also gets people to truly listen.

Washington DC Reconstruction

I found the Washington Post article to be very interesting. I especially enjoyed the short documentary that accompanied it explaining how the whole process of reconstructing Washington D.C. worked. Being interested in filmmaking, I found this to be my favorite part. Being able to see how they layered maps upon each other, then used the perspectives of different artworks to reconstruct buildings, and used historical evidence to verify was really interesting. It was so cool to see them highlight a point on the map, Q4 I think, and then show how it corresponds with a known piece of artwork. The reconstructed Washington D.C. that they show at the end of the clip is so lifelike that it feels as if you are watching a real-life movie rather than a computer graphic. Reconstructing the city must have been difficult but a lot of fun. I think it would be rewarding to reconstruct the capitol of our nation at a time before it was the capitol and then slowly add layers to see it build up to what it is today.

One of the things I think makes this project, and a lot of other public history projects, so interesting is that it combines a variety of academic disciplines that might not otherwise be used together, such as art history, geology, geography, and cartography, to create one singular work. I think that it is an interesting approach that could be used in a lot of different areas, provided they have been documented enough to create a wealth of information. Plus, the 3D model looks really cool.

Researcher for Films

Documentary Film Historical/ Research Consultant

I talked to two researchers who performed research for production companies, one for a smaller company focusing on documentary and commercial work and the other for a larger company working on small, independent films. From them I discovered there are two main options for being involved in the research aspect of documentary/ motion picture filmmaking.

The first is to be a freelance consultant. This allows you to specialize in a certain field of research, say chemistry or European history, and work with several production companies. This option values your expertise over your research skills. The downside to this option is that by working as a freelance researcher you constantly have to seek out clients in order to make your business profitable. This means that you could go months between jobs and it may take a long time to build up your reputation in the business. Additionally, once you specialize in your area of expertise, you are limited to working on films covering that subject. If only one film on the Black Death is filmed per year, and you are lucky enough to be hired, it may be the only income you get from films for the year. Most of the people in this profession work as authors, professors, and other full time jobs and do this a side hobby or passion.

The second option is to work as a full-time researcher for a production company. This option allows you to work on a wide variety of research topic and values your research skills over your specialized expertise. With this option, you typically work with one production company (or two if they are partnered production companies) and you work on whatever projects are currently under production. You may research the impact of red tides for one film and the Biblical basis for creation for another. The downside of this option is that you may have to work on projects you do not enjoy and do not develop an expertise on any one given subject. The upside is that you have a steady stream of income and work.

Some of the considerations for both of these jobs are that there is a lot of overtime, travel, and additional work involved. Often the job of researching is just one of the aspects of someone’s job. They may also be an associate producer, secretary, production coordinator, or even host. The smaller the team working on a given project, the more roles each person will have to fill. One of the things that both people I talked to agree upon is that in order to work in the documentary film business, you must have an educational background that includes some documentary production experience and education. This is a little less important for the freelancers than the contract researchers, but it makes both more attractive hires.

Both of their paths were pretty similar, so I’m going to talk about them as one general path. They started by working on student production in college, then did internships with production companies as gaffers (holding lights) and production assistants (helping with setting up equipment), and were finally hired. They agreed that to start in any position in this industry you have to be willing to work for free for a while. Their degrees were in communications but they thought that the MAHR might be an attractive option for researchers to look at. They work on a variety of projects from commercials, to short how-to style documentaries, to small, independent films. They said that on top of their jobs they often do a lot of volunteer work for other filmmakers. This is because most independent films are either paid for by the filmmakers or a donor, but never heavily financed. This also means that researchers who work on smaller projects are likely to get paid less, if at all, for their work than contract researchers.

Another consideration of these jobs is that depending on whether you are working on a documentary or a feature film, your role and the production’s adherence to the research may vary. For a documentary, most filmmakers want to maintain credibility and therefore stick close to the research. Though they do have the problem that faces many historians: how do they edit the material without sacrificing the voice and meaning of the original subject? Many interviews can go for an hour and only sixty seconds will be used for the film. How do you maintain the meaning and intent of the person while getting the most interesting of their comments?

For feature films, your role may be more of guidance than an authority. If you discover that the union army used a certain type of gun powder that produced a small puff of smoke but the director wants to use a type of gunpowder that produces a large plume of smoke, chances are he will go with his choice. For movies, historical research may take second consideration to the visual or storytelling aspects of the film.