Farmers Markets Across the United States
I have chosen to represent the data from the Department of Agriculture’s, Farmers Market Directory. This directory gives us information about the location of farmers markets across the United States. In my area of Southern Connecticut we only have a farmers market open to the public for four of the twelve months a year, which is significantly lower than many other states. Not only can this be attributed to the geographic climate of each state, we can see tangible evidence of where fresh groceries can be bought leading me to ask the question, how do Americans get fresh food in our country? And how can we help more people get fresh, hopefully non artificial food into their homes?
- Excel was used to clean up my CSV data file initially.
- A final clean up of my file in Openrefine before uploading my finished filed into Tableau public to allow for visualization manipulation.
- I used Tableau Public to create my information visualizations and my dashboard representing the Farmers Market Directory and Geographic Data.
With the original dataset I had an idea of what I wanted to represent in a visualization. Some of them turned out the way I wanted based on a few inspirations that I had found online related to different data representing farmers markets.
I used a map visualization to inspire a representation of the sum of all records, calculating the number of markets per state. I represented the difference between states with size and color but I did not feel the use a map of the United States would create the best understanding of my data which I ultimately figured would be best represented in a tile grid.
Fig.1 State visualization inspiration
With my location data I was inspired by a bar graph created by the USDA representing organic food sales (fig. 2). I needed to represent multiple locations of markers markets per state and in this case a bar graph was best with the use of different colors. I placed the states as the columns and the total number of locations as the rows. So within one state there are multiple locations used by farmers markets and as you scroll over each color per state the specific number of markets is displayed within the total number of locations in that one state.
Fig 2. Location visualization inspiration
For any market that sells fresh products there is a specific time that they can sell fresh, ripe and in season products. I was able to clean up and separate the start and end dates for the markets for my visualization to work. I attempted to represent this data as a heat map which was my inspiration (fig 3). In my attempt I placed the state and start month together in the rows and the end date in columns. The length of time is then represented as a box, of a certain shade of blue. These boxes, based on the shade, represent the number of markets that open and close within the months they line up with. Although this was not what I was imagining the visualization was able to represent time.
Fig 3. Duration visualization inspiration
The product visualization was tricky to figure out but with the sum of each product per market per state the availability of visualizations grew. I did not have a specific inspiration for this visualization due to the fact that each product did not have a time quantifying factor included in the data, just if a market sold a product or not. When looking at the states, markets and products there was an obvious discrepancy based on the size of the state. So I chose to manipulate the data in Tableau representing the information as percentages, so each state could be seen on an equal scale of 100%. Ultimately my visualization represents each product and the percentage of that product sold within the total number of markets per state. Each product is represented as a different color and the larger the percentage of markets selling that product the larger the circle.
Results & Discussion:
The result of this data being created into a cumulative dashboard showing the viewer where the most states are providing fresh products to their populations. What we can see through color comparisons and size is that there is a significant difference per state in the number of farmers markets they support with which products that are sold. I found that certain visualizations that I was able to create produced an understanding of the data that my inspirations were not able to portray. For example my state visualization inspiration, Figure 1, the size of the circles over each state made it hard to differentiate the size of the circles in comparison with other states. By representing this information as a tile grid with a difference in size and color each state can be represented in relation to the next.
In terms of the display of the dashboard there are some things that I would have liked to do differently. One thing is that I would rather not have both of the color visualizations next to each other. The location and product visualizations are heavy with color as they each represent 9-10 individual variables. What I tried to do was make sure that the key to each visualization was not near each other on the dashboard so that I could attempt to separate the information.
Another thing that I wish to have done differently in terms of the display of the dashboard was to avoid scroll windows. In the case of the data incorporating about 50 states, not every state had data in the original dataset, that a scroll window was inevitable for the visualization of duration and location.
Fig 4. Farmers Market Directory Dashboard Display
I would like to take my data further by asking questions and including other data. Going back to the locations I had each markets name, city, state and location. I would like to break this data down by state to see a snapshot of what it may look like on the ground for those seeking out naturally grown products in their area. By taking this into an ArcGIS software and map out where markets can be found in relation to neighborhoods and schools. This specific information could lead to better publicity for a market that has seen their numbers drop or stay consistent due to lack of knowledge of the area or what the market has to offer.
Another idea I would like to explore with the use of ArcGIS and location of markets would be relate the data that I had visualized in relation to CDC health data of a particular area to effect a possible change in the health of a city overall.
Furthermore I would like to look into the actual products in terms of where they are originally coming from to then be sold at a specific market. What this data set does not show are the farms that are represented at each farmers market. I am not sure where I would find the data that would give me this specific information, but I would like to know each farms harvest and production time and create a visualization based on that.