Project Description: 

Local governing bodies in California can exert a great deal of control over what counts as agriculture and who counts as a farmer. This project seeks to explore the mechanisms and policy instruments through which local governments, especially at the county level, define and defend the boundaries of acceptable agriculture, and how this impacts farmers. Cannabis as a crop provides an illustrative case study since recent regulatory changes in the state have created explicit spaces for local jurisdictions to negotiate the conditions under which this otherwise legal crop can be cultivated, if at all. In our research, we are particularly interested in how local institutions harness resources and in what ways, such as through increased rural policing, and potential disproportionate impacts on farmers across racial, ethnic, and class differences. We are also interested in environmental impacts and the discourses around potential environmental harms of certain agricultural activities and practices.

We seek undergraduate research assistants to analyze recent archival materials like local newspaper articles, county documents, and community materials to understand the discourses and disagreements within local communities as they grapple with agricultural policy change. SPUR students will work closely as part of the research team with a political ecologist (PhD Candidate Petersen-Rockney), a rural sociologist (Dr. Christy Getz), and an anthropologist (Dr. Michael Polson). Students will have the opportunity to build not only research skills, but also mentorship relationships.

Undergraduate's Role: 

The research assistant will be expected to:

Identify, gather, and organize public materials related to specific policy developments and events including: local newspaper articles, public county documents and Board of Supervisor meeting minutes, local agriculture group Facebook and website posts, and public agency reports.
With the guidance of the doctoral researcher and faculty mentor, identify key themes and assess community responses to these crisis events.
Participate in the production of key deliverables like policy timelines, infographics, and reports to the state of California.


Learning outcomes: Undergraduate research assistants can expect to gain skills and experience in research topics and methods in the fields of rural sociology, political ecology, and public policy. Students may have the opportunity to become involved with other aspects of the research project as it develops and may also have opportunities to join the principle researchers on data collection fieldwork trips in California, and collaborate toward the production of analytical reviews and research articles, depending on interest.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Margiana Petersen-Rockney, PhD Candidate and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

Undergraduate's Qualifications: 

Qualifications: The ideal candidate would be comfortable with remote and online work (required), the standard research software suite (spreadsheets, word processing, etc.) (required); have taken coursework in agrifood systems (preferred); have familiarity with qualitative coding software programs such as MaxQDA (preferred, but not required); and have a keen interest in farming systems, rural livelihoods, and/or public policy and governance.


On Campus
3-6 hours