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2007 Research Grant Recipient - Rachel Herron

The goal of this research is to explore and better understand the stresses and contradictions inherent in Ontario farming communities from the perspective of the women living in these communities by studying the strategies and support networks that enable the individual, family and community to maintain their health and well being.

Thanks to the funding I received from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society my honors thesis A qualitative study of farm women’s perceptions of care-giving in Peterborough County is almost complete. In this research project, I used qualitative methods to examine the role that farm women play in maintaining their own health and the health of their families and communities while assessing their health-related concerns. Farm women’s health-related support networks and coping strategies were also examined to better understand their needs for the purpose of understanding how informal systems of care can be assisted to better service rural communities in Canada.

Research team in Elliot Lake (June 2007)

From late August to early September, I performed fifteen interviews, approximately an hour in length each, with participants living on farms in Peterborough county. These interviews were very successful since participants were not only helpful, but also interested in my work. Four of the interview participants participated in a focus group in mid October in which they performed an activity and engaged in discussion centered on five questions designed to better understand their perceptions, challenges and experiences as a group. While I would like to have performed another focus group because of the success I had with the first group, I had more than enough information to meet the objectives of my research so I began to focus on transcription and analysis.

During the next three months, the interviews and focus group were transcribed for further analysis, while I wrote draft portions of my honours thesis. A preliminary version of the discussion and results have been compiled and submitted for grading. In the following weeks, I will be presenting my results to the faculty and colleagues in the Trent Geography Department. The honours thesis will be submitted for binding April 21 st.

While April 21 st marks the end of the Trent Geography thesis course, this project is by no means done. Given the participants interest in the study, I will be compiling a smaller report of my findings for them to review while I am interested in taking a participant’s suggestion and submitting a report to the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association. Another participant hoped that I would present my findings to local politicians or that politicians should at least hold focus groups like those performed in this research. As a critical geographer, I would like to give my participants the voice that they feel they are lacking through these reports as well as the submission of my findings to the peer reviewed Journal of Undergraduate Studies at Trent University and hopefully the Canadian Geographer.

Further research surrounding this topic is also critical to flesh out the nuances identified in the results of the research. While a larger scale project with more random sampling methods would be beneficial, the journals that I collected from participants may provide another approach to better understanding farm women’s roles in care-giving. These detailed everyday accounts of the informal health care systems in rural communities could provide more marginalized participants with a voice that cannot be accessed through interviews or focus groups. Working with Professor Skinner during the summer on related issues of care-giving and health and social services in Peterborough County, I hope to pursue these research opportunities. With so many opportunities to perform further research, which is clearly meaningful to both the participants and myself, I am interested in pursuing graduate research in the same field. The support of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society has been essential to accessing these opportunities, which are only a beginning of what I hope to pursue in the future.

— Rachel Herron


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