The thousands of data layers housed in Community Commons are powerful tools on their own, but, as the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) found, the impact of that data multiplies when translated into maps and visuals.
ASAP is an Asheville, N.C., organization working to improve community health by strengthening local food systems. Initially ASAP was a local project created to address the unique farming challenges the mountainous region faced. As the project grew over a decade, it began to share its experience and expertise with other regions through consultations.
ASAP’s Local Food Research Center (LFRC) works with those regions to help move forward their localization projects. Katie Descieux, program coordinator for LFRC, said before they started using the Commons, they created their own charts and data tables because other mapping software had little functionality and was not user friendly.
“It’s helpful to have a mapping tool that is user friendly, looks good and has the data we need.” – Katie Descieux, LFRC program coordinator
Descieux first started using the Commons while working with a group of Community Transformation Grantees. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation suggested ASAP use the Commons for their 2010 Growing Healthy Children project. Since then, the LFRC has used the mapping tool to develop visuals that provide a snapshot of the local food economy with data such as the distribution of farms and farmers’ markets, population centers, low-income communities and rural farm populations.
These maps help not only those who request LFRC food and farm assessment reports, but also those who create them. In order to make effective recommendations for localization projects, the LFRC team must understand regions and landscapes as far away as New York, Arkansas and even Australia. The LFRC uses these maps to comprehend spatial relationships in unfamiliar regions to see how various communities are laid out and interact.