Farm Hack ambitions

There have been many ambitious, idealistic visions for what Farm Hack can encompass. The project was built on a beautiful idea of making agriculture and technology more accessible for everyone by sharing designs and resources. It acknowledges that most ag-tech funding goes to equipment for very large-scale operations, which leaves smaller producers without easy access to appropriate equipment for their operations, and proposes a system of collaboration to develop and share technologies to make independent holdings more viable, to make regions more resilient and sustainable.

I’ve been asking myself the questions “What could the future of Farm Hack look like? What should it provide and enable?” This is a working list of some ideas of what I think Farm Hack could be, far-ranging and ambitious and sometimes contradictory. I want to present these ideas and invite all others, and then discuss what we can achieve.

  • Be a hub and archive and exchange for innovation, questions, experiences, and results.
  • Participate in regional hubs of farm solidarity, community, sharing. Promote engagement with one’s ecology and economy.
  • Tool sharing libraries. Find tools people are throwing or giving away, or selling at estate and yard sales. Solicit donations. Develop spaces where people can learn how to use or borrow tools. Not necessarily a full maker space unless the community can support it, but somewhere to share ladders and saws and hammers and lawn mowers etc.
  • Host networks/chapters of semi-regular, independent, regional meetups. Spaces for farmers and inventors and other participants to gather and talk about experiences, needs, solutions, plans.
  • Connect to the ideas of grange halls, libraries, mending circles, soup kitchens, other physical community spaces. Cooperative purchasing, cooperative building.
  • Digital library of resources for interesting topics. Archive of some things that are particularly valuable.
  • Workshop templates and educational materials that can be used by and for groups. For students, permaculture groups/ food forests, community gardens, maker spaces. Mix of user-submitted things, things found online or in books, things developed by committee.
  • Regular workshops to build specific pieces of equipment that the community needs, like CAPE does.
  • Staff engineers to design and build bigger projects, like tractor implements, with a big education component, like what l’atelier paysan does
  • Work with regional food resilience programs and initiatives
  • Partner with students to build/redesign/improve some specific tools from the archive. Work on developing other partnerships to get specific things designed.
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Practical engagement seems to bring out a certain resourcefulness. Sometimes, the solution presents after much trial and error, but is quite useful to others if learned.

Solution sharing will happen organically wherever people connect, but there may be an opportunity to curate and motivate sharing.

Your vision for the tool and digital libraries leans toward such an opportunity. I’m not sure what the best formula or forum might be, but simply asking doers to share one clever thing they figured out will probably yield.

Systematically asking community members that are actively engaging with problems could look like a regular showcase, guest teaching opportunities, semi-formal mentorship programs (match me with a mentor/mentee), and nominating speakers (I know Bob’s quiet, but he knows so much. I’ll nominate him to tell a story.).

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I love the list, and would love to engage more. Personally I would like nearby, short (1 - 2 day) intensive build sessions for feedback, codesign, and actual production.

I also love how you’ve mentioned work done by others that has been successful like l’atelier paysan, and also Sam’s group in Canada (don’t know the name). The more you can learn from things that worked (or parts that didn’t) the better.

Also just was in rebranded citizen-science.org (https://participatorysciences.org/) session and Callie Chappell talked about the idea of LABraries which I thought was cool (though had a lot of questions about also) – https://bio4e.stanford.edu/.

I think you’ve laid out lots of ideas, but I think the greatest barrier is honestly the juice to make things move. So maybe also the question of sustainability and effort should also be brainstormed.

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La CAPÉ might be the group in Canada you’re thinking of. They are a cooperative of farmers in Quebec, and they also do collective purchasing and host workshops to build specific tools.

I agree that it all depends on getting the juice to make things move, and not everything will be able to happen at once. So then the question is, what are achievable and sustainable objectives to focus on first? What will lay a better foundation/framework for the future?

I’m also thinking of something like the Fibershed, which is a project around local textile production. There is an organizing structure but also chapters can self-organize and decide what they’re doing and how.

So relating it to Farm Hack, if there is ever a point of there being more-or-less self-organized chapters that participate in a larger network, those chapters could decide what is a priority to them. To host intensive build sessions, or set up a tool library, do collective purchasing, seed processing/sharing, whatever the community decides it needs and wants to do for itself.

The LABraries are very cool. They seem to be primarily about biology, but I’ve been thinking how it would be cool for people to be able to do their own water testing / soil contaminants testing, or to have accessible regional labs for it.

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I like the idea of systematically asking community members to showcase things. Or maybe we could have a running monthly thread where people are encouraged to share things they’ve made, learned, struggled with.

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