Mapping Local Food

Tracey and I have been working on a little project as part of our local Transition Town group for mapping local food. We were at our local Swanson Market a couple of weeks ago with the big map that we’ve been working on.

Getting local food on the map

The map we’ve built is a two-and-a-half meter long terrain model of the area we live in, showing about half of Waitakere. It was built up with layers of fibre board and cardboard, using terrain maps projected from google maps, then traced and cut out. It’s in four parts, with sides to protect the map, which bolt together and sit on a display table.

We could have just used a big paper map on a pin-up board, but the having such a large and impressive looking model is a great conversation starter. When we take it to a market people come up to us and take a look. Then we tell them that we’re putting pins in the map for anyone who grows veggies, even for their own use, or sells local food, makes local food products, or provides garden instruction or tools.

Instead of trying to promote food growing, we’re asking people about what they are already doing. This sort of conversation is much less confronting for people (we aren’t trying to sell anything), and it has real benefits. In one day we collected information for about 40 local growers, and we’ll be visiting the Oratia Farmers Market this Saturday to collect more. Each pin on the map represents a real local resource, and also potentially the start of a conversation about local resilience.

A physical map has lots of benefits compared to some online tool, but it can only be in one place at a time, so we have an online tool as well. When we get home from the market, the information on each “map pin” gets typed up, and appears on this interactive map:

http://maps.transitiontowns.org.nz/regions/waitakere

The software that runs this can be used by anyone wanting to run a similar project. Contact me if you’re keen to try it in your area.

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