DataViz Final Project Proposal – Zhiyan Zhong

My story is about farmer markets.

Farmer markets are usually overlooked or underestimated by people when talking about economy. As per my expectation, with more supermarkets and food chains, there will be fewer and fewer farmer markets in the U.S. However, according to the data released by the Department of Agriculture, there has been a steady increase in the number of farmer markets across the country for many years. This inspires me to look into data related to farmer markets and see how the industry has been doing over years.

In my story, I will analyze how the number of farmer markets in the States has been changing and why the need for farmer markets is still growing. I’ll also look into food sales of farmer markets over time and compare it with food sales of farms with direct sales to retail/restaurants. I will also compare the data by state and see if there are any sates that stand out. If possible, I would also like to make a map that shows the farmer markets’ locations or the number of farmer markets in each state.

To pursue this story, I will need data about number of farmer markets by state over time. Data about food sales and pricing will also be helpful. I’ve already found some data of the number of farmer markets in the U.S. on the Department of Agriculture’s website, but it’s very brief and I will need to contact them and see if they have a more detailed version. The New York State also has data about farmer markets and it even includes the address of those markets, but they don’t have data over year on the website, so I will reach out to them to acquire more data if it’s available. Besides looking for datasets, I will also interview people to help myself make sense of the topic. I will talk with an expert in the field of farm economy and farmers from the farmer markets.

I am thinking about using a mapping tool (CartoDB, Infogr.ams, or more) to show the farmer markets’ locations, charts from the Highcharts to show the change of number of farmer markets and the change of food sales/value in the market, and Tabletop to create a sortable table that includes more information of each farmer market, such as its website and contact information.

As for the unknowns that I need to flesh out, because I am not familiar with farmer markets, I don’t really know what influences of farmer markets could have on the community and what the increasing number of farmer markets could mean to the society. Things might go wrong if I don’t understand the issues. Therefore, I will have to talk with some experts in order to make sense of the numbers and then see if there is any other related data I should look into.

Also, national data may be complicated and it will be hard for me to analyze a large dataset. A back up plan would be looking at a smaller picture and just focusing on New York State’s data. As the New York State has the address of each farmer market, I can show each location on a map. I can also show the change of number of farmer markets in charts. The challenge would be getting data on food value and sales in the state level as I haven’t found any on the government website, but again, I will have to talk with an expert first in order to know what aspects or issues I should actually look into.