I enjoyed the door-knocking tremendously, and found that interacting directly with people in the neighborhood gave me a better insight into the area’s culture than any amount of talking to people who live elsewhere or browsing Internet statistics ever could have. This fact seems almost too obvious to state, but I found the experience of walking between houses and speaking with the people living in them honestly eye-opening.
The people Kate and I talked to received us with overwhelming friendliness. Of all the people who opened their doors when we knocked, not one refused to talk to us or seemed unwilling to participate in the survey. Some people greeted us with expressions of reservation when we said we were taking a survey, but once we explained that our purpose was to learn about the neighborhood and help an urban farm, even the initially distant warmed up.
Not a single person had been to Zenger, and most did not know it existed. A few people said they had been by “the place with the red barn,” which was the closest we got to recognition. In addition, most did not know about the Furey property, even though they lived within walking distance. Some explained this situation by blaming by the dismal state of the road. However, everyone seemed to love Zenger’s concept when we explained it to them. A lot of the neighbors had gardens and responded enthusiastically to the idea of expanding an urban farm and building a community garden. When we asked people if they found any of the potential uses of the Furey lot concerning, the general response was something along the lines of “Any of that stuff sounds better than just leaving a vacant lot.”
The neighborhood certainly differed from my own. I live in suburban Lake Oswego, a land of huge multi-story houses, paved sidewalks, manicured playgrounds, and driveways in front of every house hosting multiple shiny cars. The area around the Furey lot has smaller, older houses, no sidewalks, bumpy roads, and few new cars. Many people had dogs, and many dogs live in my neighborhood, too. But the dogs where I live bask on their owners’ verdant lawns and get walked on leashes and play with their family’s children, whereas these dogs seemed to serve the more as protectiors than playmates. Lake Oswego also boasts negligible ethnic diversity, whereas Powellhurst-Gilbert is home to assorted minority groups. Kate and I didn’t encounter any language barriers in our survey group, but we know from some of the other knockers that Eastern Europeans, Mexicans, and Chinese immigrants all live nearby.
The survey gave us good data, and assuming that Ecotone completed their canvassing on Saturday, we now have a lot to work with. The primary conclusion, in my mind, was that Zenger has nearly no recognition in the community, and therefore needs to seriously increase their local involvement if they want their neighbors to know about them.