TAS was lucky enough to have a volunteer researcher and blog writer work with us during the spring of 2014. Jacob Levy was a valuable asset to the team and we thank him for his time with TAS. Before Jacob completed his work to head off to graduate school, we caught up with him to get the scoop on his perspective on his time with us.
1. What about TAS made you decide to seek us out for a volunteer position?
This past spring I obtained my bachelors degree from The University of Western Ontario in Geography. Throughout my time at school, I focused primarily on the study of human and urban geographies, two subjects that have always fascinated me. After completing a handful of projects and reports in these fields, I found that the relationship between people and cities to be dynamic, interesting and something that I want to continue to examine.
Urban development seemed like a logical next step in my learning experience. I believe that developers are in a unique position where they are able to shape the urban landscape in a dramatic way. If properly executed, this can impact the surrounding population positively. Development is an industry rooted in the relationship between a city and its population, the same relationship I enjoyed studying in school. When I read about TAS and looked into the projects that TAS has done in the past, it came across as a developer that was seriously committed to improving Toronto. TAS goes beyond the expectation of a developer as they undertake and engineer social, economic and environmental programs and events that benefit the community. It seemed like rewarding work, and I wanted to contribute to it in some way.
2. Please describe the kind of work you are doing at TAS
For the most part my work at TAS is research based. I was working with Emma Point, carrying out research on urban rooftop farming. This has been exciting area of study because it is a relatively new practice. At the moment there is not a great deal of data on rooftop farming and both Emma and I have been working towards increasing the availability of information on this subject. Essentially, I am attempting to create a resource guide that will provide specific information rooftop vegetable gardens such as their potential profitability. We think this resource could be useful for prospective and current rooftop gardeners, or any others interested in rooftop gardening.
3. Did you imagine that you would be doing work related to urban agriculture when you first approach TAS for a volunteer position?
When I first approached TAS I wasn’t sure what type of work I would be doing but I was willing to contribute in any field. I was pleased to learn that I would be doing research on a topic that addresses an important issue for me. As a vegetarian, social scientist and Torontonian, I believe food security to be an increasingly important issue. Sometimes we don’t realize our dependence on food imports and how volatile this is. Furthermore, there are people currently living in our society that don’t have access to enough food. But despite living in such a cold climate, the capacity to grow local food is still very high. Through the promotion of rooftop gardens, we are providing people with information on how to set up rooftop gardens in hopes that this otherwise unused real estate can be turned into something beneficial.
4. What are you ultimately hoping to get out of the volunteer experience?
So far my experience as a volunteer at TAS has been a positive one. Everyone has been very kind to me and it has been a pleasure to be able to work in an office environment and have the opportunity to see how the company operates on a daily basis. I find the work environment inspiring and I admire the direction the company is taking to improve our city. I hope to take away a greater knowledge of the urban development industry. I am also looking forward to completing some of the projects I have been working on, and contributing something not only to the company but also to the society that I live in. I think producing something tangible that will benefit people will be a truly rewarding experience.
5. Has the volunteer experience been valuable for you from a personal and/or professional experience?
After being in school for so many years, it’s nice to finally have the opportunity to apply what I have learned to an important project. I think that working at TAS and working on this project has allowed me to get a feel for what it is like to work in the industry. I am fortunate to find myself researching an interesting subject. It seems like the emergence of roof gardens has just begun, yet I can see it becoming a prominent practice in the future as cities expand and become denser. I feel lucky to be able to contribute something to an innovative and potentially important subject.
6. What is up next for you?
I am hoping to attend graduate school this coming year to study either spatial analysis or human geography with the emphasis on urban studies. Following school, I would like to pursue a career that relates to urban geography, perhaps in development, planning, or GIS.
Real Time Update: Jacob has received word that he will be attending graduate school beginning in September 2014. We wish him the best of luck!