Community as Process, Installment Two

Welcome to Installment 2 of Community as Process. Last week we introduced three new wikis to the Farm Hack site: a new culture page, a farm hack methodology of documentation, and the recently updated getting started guide. Like everything documented on Farm Hack, these wikis are openly editable by the community–our intention is that they will be functional, usable documents, and that they will spark conversation and input by a broader swath of community members. 

Each of these pages has an associated forum which will host relevant conversation: Culture, Method, and  Getting Started. As a facilitation team, we want to create a public space where these significant conversations can happen. The forums are a great place to share feedback and conversations so that the entire community can benefit. 

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Values and Vision Survey

Last Fall, a group of Farm Hack community members circulated a survey to help us create a foundation for our collaborative work. The purpose of this survey was to organize ourselves around our commonalities and to discuss them. The result has been an understanding among ourselves of the kind of community we want to take part in and help to facilitate–a philosophical banner to rally behind. 

The survey includes questions like: “What is the situation, broadly speaking, around agriculture and the emerging Farm Hack culture?” and “What are the beliefs and behaviors that could foster the best possible outcomes for the Farm Hack community?” 

We extracted a working document from the survey responses and posted it as a wiki; it’s called Vision, Values, Strategy, and Goals. We invite you to offer your thoughts, and reach out to us to participate. Feel free to comment offering general feedback about this document as well as to address the specific questions. 


What’s next

In the next few weeks, we’ll revisit the topics and documents covered in the first installment of the Community as Process series. As we post this content, we are working to refine it, make it appropriate and useful, and frame it in ways that will best serve our community and ourselves as a facilitation team. 

We plan to incorporate additional methods of user participation into the Farm Hack platform itself. We will be collaborating with Public Labs to develop rich user profiles for our site, enabling each user to tell their story and display their involvement in the Farm Hack community. 

We will host and publish recorded video conversations with community members. Keep an eye out for these Farm Hack open hour convos as well. If you would like to participate in an open hour to talk about your experience with Farm Hack, tool development, etc., please contact us at info@farmhack.net

In solidarity, 

Kristen Loria, Nathaniel Levy, Dorn Cox, Daniel Grover

Community as Process: A weekly series on organizing Farm Hack

Welcome to our newly launched weekly series! Our goal is to share the conversations and philosophies which we (the Farm Hack facilitators) use to move this community forward. Transparency is foundational to the philosophy of our community; and dialogue throughout the community cannot happen if information (whether it be tool documentation or organizational and strategic planning) is siloed. To learn more about where we think we’re headed and how you can engage, read on. 

Part 1: Thoughts on transparency, association and Farm Hack Culture

On recent Farm Hack organizing calls, we (the Farm Hack facilitators) have been talking a lot  about how to make Farm Hack’s organizing processes more collaborative and transparent. Farm Hack is first and foremost a community of peer production and open-source exchange, better conceived of as an association of collaborators than a traditional non-profit organization. The human and technical infrastructure that supports the community—in-person events, the sharing of documentation, discussion in the online forums, and the platform itself—were created by people motivated by a shared belief in the Farm Hack mission and the desire to create something useful. Many, if not most, of these people have been volunteers; paid work and the exchange of money have not been the drivers behind Farm Hack’s growth. And we think that makes for a richer, more diverse, and more resilient community that can build and sustain itself according to the vision, skills and efforts of many people.

Cooperation, association, and mutual aid are foundational to how we think and talk about who we are. But talk has its limits. It’s vital that our practice demonstrates our thinking. As Farm Hack matures and gets bigger, we need to update our processes accordingly. Based on lots of conversation in organizing calls and elsewhere, we think it’s important to put more practices and structures in place to allow everyone, both those newly discovering Farm Hack and the old hats, to: see what is happening across the community; feel warmly invited, and encouraged, to participate; and understand how to go about participating. It’s natural that there will continue to be a diverse mix of interests and capacities for participation within the community. But we hope that many will continue to participate actively however suits them best. Our community’s commitment to our values has brought Farm Hack to the place it is today,  with thousands of registered Farm Hack users and hundreds of tools  documented. There’s so much more we’re still excited to accomplish.

Truly collaborative work can also feel (or be) slow. I am sure many of you have encountered a broken link or a disappointingly incomplete tool page on the Farm Hack site  and perhaps wondered whose job it was to fix  that. It’s not really anyone’s, and its also everyone’s – possibly yours. You, other platform users, casual visitors to the site, and contributors to in-person activities are all community members. The organizers and moderators of the community will work hard to make sure you’re empowered to contribute effectively. If you’re moved to do so, read the planning wikis; join the weekly organizers call; jump into Culture conversations in the  forum (more are coming!); submit some blog content; or, make that Farm Hack build event happen that you’ve been thinking about for the past year.  Because that’s truly how this whole thing has been built so far.

To this end, we (again, the Farm Hack facilitators) are going to start posting various strategic and  planning documents in wiki format with associated Forum discussions.  Because we want your feedback, and we want to spark more thought and  conversation about what our community is, what it means and where it’s  headed.

Here is a mockup of the coming soon Farm Hack homepage, with a Culture and Getting Started section:

Introducing the Farm Hack Culture Page

This week we are also launching a Culture page to  better discuss our thoughts on the “why” of Farm Hack–we aren’t just  posting some cool tools in a vacuum, we are doing it for specific  reasons and it means things. Important things. A lively and engaging  discussion of those things is the purpose of starting a Culture page –  so check out the working wiki, make some comments.

Also living on the Culture Page is the Farm Hack Design Principles wiki.

A working guide: the Farm Hack Method for Documentation

Documentation  is our bedrock. Without it,  Farm Hack wouldn’t exist. Knowledge sharing  begins with the creation  and dissemination of documentation. That’s why  it’s so important to  develop educational resources that empower our  community members and  help them produce high-quality documentation.  That’s the main objective  of this resource: to offer a how-to guide by  illustrating the  documentation process in the context of different sorts  of tools and  environments, including farms, events, and formal  education.

Check out the Farm Hack Method Version .01

How to Jump In

To start things off, we’ve put some work into the Getting Started Page, which discusses entry points into the Farm Hack community and how to navigate it. Go there to learn how to join organizer calls, contribute to the blog, or put on a Farm Hack event. More to come there.

Follow us to the Forum

We are hoping to use the Farm Hack Forum to continue these conversations. We’ve started a couple, so jump on or create a new thread.

Up Next:

Follow up on the SARE-funded redesign process we have been undergoing in partnership with UVM.

Working on universal logins and rich profile development with Public Labs.

 

In solidarity,

Farm Hack facilitators:

Kristen Loria, Nathaniel Levy, Dorn Cox, Daniel Grover

 

 

 

 

Video: a proof of concept for a open source circular economy

This post was originally posted on the P2P Foundation blog.

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens

19th December 2015

 

“POC21 was an international innovation community, that started as an innovation camp. The camp brought together 100+ makers, designers, engineers, scientists and geeks. In late summer 2015, we joined forces in a stunning French castle to prototype a fossil free, zero waste society. Our ultimate goal was to overcome the destructive consumer culture and make open-source, sustainable products the new normal. Over the course of 5 weeks we developed 12 sustainable lifestyle technologies and built an international community of innovators and supporters, that continues to grow.”

This is short documentary on that amazing project, which I had the chance to visit myself for three days.

Watch the video here:

Stay in touch! sign up for the POC21 newsletter (poc21.cc), follow us on Twitter (twitter.com/POC21cc) or like our Facebook page (facebook.com/POC21/). Thanks to Sam Muirhead of cameralibre.cc

Source: Video: a proof of concept for a open source circular economy

FarmOS: A Drupal-based farm management solution

This article was originally posted on opensource.com

Posted 24 Nov 2015 by 

Image credits :

Mike Stenta. CC BY-SA 4.0.

FarmOS is a Drupal-based software project aimed at easing the day-to-day management of a farm. It allows different roles to be assigned to managers, workers, and viewers. Managers can monitor how things are going with access to the whole system, workers can use the record-keeping tools, and viewers have read-only access to, for example, certify the farm’s records.

I spoke with Mike Stenta, lead developer of farmOS and active developer since 2010, and he had a number of reasons for using Drupal and putting their files, code, and documentation on GitHub.

“I settled on Drupal for farmOS because I see it as a good intersection of flexibility, scalability, and community,” Stenta said. “It uses a modular architecture, so you can build applications in Drupal like building Legos. The community is huge, and the number of contributed modules and themes is mind-boggling. If you can think of it, you can probably build it in Drupal—and chances are someone already has.”

FarmOS's Mike Stenta

Fourteen modules are currently being developed, including Farm Access, Farm Admin, Farm Asset, Farm Crop, and more.

“The focus right now is laying a strong groundwork so that others can more easily join in and contribute,” Stenta said. “The world of agriculture wasn’t even on my radar until 2008. I started college in computer science, but switched to art and photography—partly because web development wasn’t in the curriculum. After college I found my way to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. There I worked as a farm apprentice. Then I came back to the east coast. In 2010, I helped my friend start a small CSA in Connecticut, and the philosophy of food and cultivation sank in deeply over those years. It shaped my direction profoundly.”

Then, he had the inspiration for farmOS. It came from some software he developed for the CSA. To take it to the next level he started generalizing his work, which led to the creation of the modules that are the core of farmOS today. Stenta is also working on a general ledger module for Drupal, which is a double-entry accounting system similar to popular proprietary products.

The community surrounding the project is important too, and farmOS is looking for beta testers and other contributors to the project.

“FarmOS is developed by a handful of contributors, and more are getting involved steadily,” Stenta said. “Community is everything, and it’s important to foster good communication and planning in any open source project. We publish monthly roadmaps and invite people to help. All the planning and task management is done in the Drupal issue queues and on GitHub, so it’s transparent and accessible. The monthly development meetings are a new experiment we’re trying to invite more people into the conversation. The project is still very young, but the interest has been huge and it’s starting to take on a life of its own.”

Farm Hack Newsletter: Welcome to the shiny new Farm Hack tool library!

Shiny New Tool Library at farm hack.org!

After receiving a SARE grant in partnership with UVM this past spring to improve functionality of our Tool documentation platform, this summer has been a big web development push for Farm Hack.  We have just launched a re-design of the Tools section of the website. The new version is intended to make both documenting tools and finding the tool you are looking for easier and more effective.

New Tool Library Features:

  • New look!
  • Smartphone and tablet friendly
  • Improved Tool Search functionalities
  • Easier documentation process
  • New “like” and “I have built this” buttons on tool pages

Farm Hack @ Ruskin Mill Video (Gloucestershire, UK)

New Farm Hack Network Calendar

The new Calendar page integrates Farm Hack events as well as other events hosted by other  the Northeast Food Knowledge Ecosystem (NEFKE) coalition.

Event Report: Culticycle @ the Draft Animal Powered Field Days

Culticycle enthusiasts and teamsters convened at the Draft Animal Powered Field Days in September, hosted by the Draft Animal Power Network to discuss the intersection of human and draft powered farming systems and tools. What type and amount of power is needed for different tools or tasks on the farm, and how can draft or human-powered systems supplant fossil fuel-powered ones? These questions embody the first design principle of the Farm Hack community, “Biology before steel and diesel.”

Most equipment manufacturers stopped building tools for horse and oxen farming around the middle of the 1900s. Farmers who wish to continue farming with draft animals innovate and invent tools appropriate for their purposes…..keep reading on the Farm Hack Blog

Get More Involved with Farm Hack

Developers
We are always looking for developers to join in on current and future projects. We meet weekly through Google Hangout on Thursday evenings. Contact info@farmhack.net if you want to join the call.

Documenters
There are heaps of useful tools out in the world that don’t exist on farm hack! Know some tools or some inventive farmers? Reach out to help them document! Then follow the steps on the Add a Tool page.

Event Organizers
Do you want to host a Farm Hack in your area? It’s not so hard with some help from local partners, farmers and Farm Hack’s Event Organizing wiki.

On the Blog:

Hand labor, tractor labor and horse labor: a question of power and scale

Peter & Jelmer with the Melotte

Leave a reply

By Jelmer Albada

This article appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of the Small Farmer’s Journal (Vol. 39 No. 2). Thank you to Jelmer Albada and Stephen Leslie for providing access to the text in digital form.

When considering the potential utility of draft animal power on the modern 21st century farm, I like to begin from the perspective of examining those farm models where all the work was done by hand. That hand work was done with a lot of care and precision and with great attention to detail towards the soil and the crops (these methods persist in our times in small scale community gardens and among some subsistence farmers). I have heard about, read about, and also have first-hand experience practicing these cultural gardening techniques involving hand labor and find it useful and inspiring to use these methods as a springboard from which to examine where draft animal power can be most useful and where the hand work can readily be improved upon. My conclusion is that there are many areas where a horse can do a better job in replacing the hand work, and that live horse power will usually not be ”over-kill”, as could be the case by introducing a tractor into a relatively small-scale operation. In this light, the horse could be viewed as a four-legged employee of the farm, always ready to take on the big and small jobs.

What I am saying in other words, is that there are different methods to the goal of an efficient system that stewards the soil, harvests healthy crops, and does not over-tax the human labor…Keep reading on the Farm Hack blog

Integrating Open Source: the Open Agriculture Learning Series

by Dan Kane

High tech tools are increasingly being integrated into our agricultural systems every year. New combines often come standard with geo-located yield monitoring technology, while start-ups and researchers are exploring how drones might be used to monitor fields. New record-keeping tools with mobile platforms make it easy for farmers to track their activity, analyze their data, and get feedback and recommendations. These tools are powerful, potentially enabling farmers to see, understand, and manage their land in ways previously less possible.

But many of these tools are costly, proprietary, and crop-specific, often coming with high subscription costs on a platform that makes data inaccessible or less versatile. Their current format can create barriers for farmers that don’t match their target clientele. But are they only tools available?

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Photosynq

Open source agricultural tools may be an answer to the emergence of new proprietary, high-tech tools. Drawing on the development principles of the open-source movement, university researchers, farmers, developers, and hackers are building their own tools that often have open-source licensing or are freely available to the public. For example, farmOS is a completely open-source records management system that can be integrated with aerial maps to make management fast and east, and Photosynq is a project that integrates a Bluetooth-enabled photosynthesis meter with an online data management platform.

Individually, these tools are powerful, capable of providing farmers with new ways of collecting, analyzing, and modeling data on their farms. But so many of these tools go unnoticed now or aren’t currently capable of integrating with each other. For busy farmers who don’t have the time to manage and learn multiple tools, paying a premium for a more complete service often seems like the more attractive option.

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The Open Agriculture Learning Series (OALS) is a group that formed with all these issues in mind. In an effort to catalog all the tools available and generate conversations about how we can integrate them, we host periodic webinars where developers can present their projects, talk about their needs, and look for ways to collaborate. OALS has drawn in groups like farmOS, Photosynq, Open Pipe Kit, Comet-Farm, and many more.

Through the series we’ve learned about the huge variety of useful tools that are already out there, but we’ve also about how hard it is to get these tools to speak to each other. Simply hosting a space where folks who are interested can have conversations is the first step in the process. OALS has led to fruitful conversations between groups like farmOS and Photosynq, who are now thinking of ways to make it easier to push data from one to the other.

As we continue to map the landscape of great work out there, we keep learning and finding points of collaboration. High-tech tools will most likely be an important part of the knowledge systems farmers use to help them make decisions. Ensuring that they’re inclusive and available to all producers will be essential to building a food system that’s just and sustainable.

Access past Open Agriculture Learning Series presentations in the Archive.

Reversing the Mississipi: documentary about the Open Source Ecology project

This article was originally posted by Michel Bauwens on the P2P Foundation blog

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens

REVERSING THE MISSISSIPPI is a documentary about a genius technologist and a rebel educator, two pioneers from opposite spectrums with one goal in common: Build a sustainable community. Can two men driven by determination overcome global challenges to change the world?”

Watch the trailer here, commentary from Shareable below:

 

Anna Bergren Miller writes:

“When filmmaker Ian Midgley set out in search of a subject, he had no idea that he would wind up a matchmaker. But matchmake he did, forging a connection between two young changemakers working in the Katrina-ravaged southeastern United States. Midgley’s new film, Reversing the Mississippi, tells the story of two men—scientist-inventor Marcin Jakubowski and teacher Nat Turner—united by a passion for expanding access to economic opportunity.

Midgley met Jakubowki first. The physics PhD and TED fellow was living in rural Missouri on Factor e Farm, a living laboratory for his life’s work: re-engineering life-sustaining machines to allow anyone to build them using basic tools and materials. To create the open-source Global Village Construction Set, Jakubowski relied on the time and energy of a motley crew of volunteers. Despite Jakubowski’s good intentions—and the huge media attention Factor e Farm generated—the project had stalled, the overworked volunteers increasingly disgruntled with their leader’s detached management style. “If he took time to consider it, he would be glad that I was here,” remarked a member of Jakubowski’s crew. “But I don’t think he’s taken that time.”

Enter Nat Turner. A former New York City schoolteacher who resigned following controversy involving a trip to Cuba with some of his students and their parents, Turner responded to news of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation by packing a school bus and driving to New Orleans. There he established Our School at Blaire Grocery, an alternative school and sustainability education center in the Lower Ninth Ward. Students at Our School learn the fundamentals of urban farming and career skills in addition to preparing for the GED. When Midgley told Turner about Factor e Farm, the teacher was intrigued enough to travel to Missouri in search of new machinery for his agriculture program.

Midgley’s film documents Jakubowski and Turner’s fruitful knowledge exchange. What began as a quest for technical assistance quickly evolved into much more. Turner, too, had had experience with the tricky transition from visionary to staff leader. And beyond the nitty-gritty of organizational operations, the men shared a commitment to realizing the seemingly impossible. “The work that we’re doing is like what it would take to reverse the flow of the Mississippi River,” said Turner. “That’s how big it was.”

Source: Reversing the Mississipi: documentary about the Open Source Ecology project

Feminism and the Commons

This article was originally published in the Fall 2015 FOOD/LAND Issue of GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine
Tallulah Fontaine
Image: Tallulah Fontaine

 

by Alison Hugill

 

This time … it is women who must build the new commons so that they do not remain transient spaces, temporary autonomous zones, but become the foundation of new forms of social reproduction.

— Silvia Federici, “Feminism and the Politics of the Commons”

In the last decade, the idea of the “commons” has taken root in new territory. The commons refers to a moment when the distinction between public and private property was both challenged and defined, and today, in the face of widespread austerity measures, urban studies, architecture, and planning, in particular, have revisited the term in the pursuit of a radical spatial politics.

The recent “Make City” festival in Berlin, and its corollary ideas competition “Designing the Urban Commons” in London this spring, interrogated strategies for collective self-management and invited participants to challenge established ideas of property and ownership. The events began from the premise that the distinction between private and public property is a false binary that ignores the possibility of land and resources beyond the purview of the state or market. Whether evidenced in local community gardening initiatives like the “Agrocité” project in the Paris suburb of Colombes, initiated by collective Atelier d’Architecture Autogerée (AAA), or in the theoretical underpinning of critical educational forum “Campus in Camps” in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, led by members of the “Decolonizing Architecture” research group, the commons has presented a refreshing alternative for understanding the politics of space.

Additionally, we’ve seen a worldwide proliferation of discussions about the urban commons cropping up in response to crises: unprecedented examples of spatial commons resulting from protest movements or cases of extreme need such as the current refugee crisis, community farming initiatives, and efforts to safeguard the digital commons. Whether material or immaterial, the topic seems to quench a contemporary social drought brought on by the so-called “retreat of the public.” With this in mind, the question of how to scale the politics of the commons beyond local, spatial, or resource-based definitions is an ongoing concern.

The commons has historical roots in the English peasant revolts of the Industrial Revolution, a time period which entailed the seizure and enclosure of commonly held land. Residents and subsistence farmers were violently expelled and land was released into the privatized mainstream of capital accumulation, creating a landless proletariat. Karl Marx called this the moment of “primitive accumulation” from which capitalism as we know it was born.

Commons are intimately connected to a moment of loss and, if understood as a singular historical event, threaten to solidify the reign of capitalism and create a nostalgic political outlook. Contemporary theories around the commons insist, instead, that primitive accumulation is a constantly recurring cyclical phenomenon, through which capital seeks boundless expansion. New commons are constantly to be found and enclosures ceaselessly follow. Rather than a foundational moment, capitalist accumulation and the dispossession of commoners is seen as a dynamic process that demands a more structural challenge if it is to be curbed.

A recent turn away from the term as denoting a site or resource, and towards its understanding as a social process, has resulted in the active verb “commoning”: the creation of a community that shares political values concerning the common ownership of food, land, and knowledge resources. Importantly, as Greek academic Stavros Stavrides points out, commoning is about difference not commonality, and the ideal commons would constantly expand the scope of its participants. Beyond a purely resource-based definition of the term, this social pact entails a focus on immaterial forms of work, communication, self-management, and knowledge exchange.

If we think of the commons only in terms of spaces or resources, we risk missing the deeper structural problems inherent in capitalist ideology. A useful challenge to stagnation is found in Italian autonomist feminist Silvia Federici’s short essay “Feminism and the Politics of the Commons,” wherein she points to the feminist and Indigenous roots of commoning. In this piece she makes the important, and contentious, claim that a revaluation of traditionally feminized reproductive labour is crucial to any understanding of commoning as a future anti-capitalist political program. Reproductive labour sets the initial conditions for production to occur: it involves sexual reproduction, care, nourishment, and shelter. Without aiming to essentialize present-day instances of reproductive labour, it has historically been understood as women’s work. Federici proposes that we need to collectivize reproductive labour in order to make commoning a social reality, and argues that women are historically poised to lead the transition.

As noted above, the idea of the commons as a historical alternative to the state and market has gained renewed critical relevance in contemporary urban studies discourses for the way in which it addresses ever-increasing privatization of land and natural resources, as well as agricultural practices. Federici, who has been approaching the topic from a feminist perspective for decades, warns of the dangers inherent in the concept’s misappropriation, citing the ways in which the term “commons” has been hijacked by the UN and the World Bank to allow “a crisis-ridden capitalist class to revive itself as guardians of the planet.” Additionally, the promise of the internet as a commons has been increasingly debunked, as every corner of cyberspace becomes subject to privatization and surveillance.

Federici asserts the importance of considering the feminist roots of the commons and commoning, in order to present a structurally more cohesive alternative political project. In her well-known book Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, she traces the countless ways in which women’s bodies have been persecuted and policed—particularly as medieval heretics and, shortly after, as witches—by the church and state in the transition to capitalism. She lays out the systematic quashing of women’s social power and its inextricable ties to collective subsistence and reproductive health. It’s no coincidence that heresy flourished amongst the rural proletariat, particularly among poor women who took control over their own reproduction, creating powerful “sterility potions” to avoid further economic ruin. Heresy became increasingly associated with reproductive crimes and a prototypical women’s movement emerged within heretic groups.

Federici pinpoints the witch hunts as a direct response to the kind of social life and gender relations that prevailed in the communal living situations of rural peasants and serfs in the Middle Ages. Medieval serfs had relative autonomy over common lands—meadows, forests, lakes, wild pastures—and direct access to the means of their subsistence. No social separation existed between the production of goods and the reproduction of the workforce: “women worked in the fields, in addition to raising children, cooking, washing, spinning, and keeping an herb garden; their domestic activities were not devalued and did not involve different social relations from those of men, as they would later, in a money-economy, when housework would cease to be viewed as real work.” Though Federici is certainly not advocating a return to serfdom, nor glorifying the conditions of servitude, she does note certain social benefits that resulted from unfettered access to common lands and collective food resources.

In contrast, capitalist societies have since organized economic life in such a way that there is cooperation at the point of production, and separation and isolation at the point of reproduction. To combat this atomization in family units, Federici cites examples of urban gardens as playing a significant role in the production of food for local or neighbourhood communities. They have, however, largely remained spontaneous grassroots initiatives and the question of how to scale the idea of commoning, without ultimate subsumption in the capitalist market, remains largely unanswered. Foregrounding a number of contemporary examples—including the African tontines (autonomous, self-managed, women-made banking systems) and the ollas communes (common cooking pots) of Chile and Peru—Federici shows the ways in which women have been and continue to be the “subsistence farmers of the world.” Her insistence on the gendered nature of this struggle comes from a historical study of the role of women in struggles against land enclosures. Federici predicts critical feminist responses to her argument within the text, aware that many feminists would find her argument, that reproductive labour is intimately related to women’s lived experience, essentializing. She writes:

Arguing that women should take the lead in the collectivization of reproductive work and housing is not to naturalize housework as a female vocation. It is refusing to obliterate the collective experiences, the knowledge and the struggles that women have accumulated concerning reproductive work, whose history has been an essential part of our resistance to capitalism. Reconnecting with this history is a crucial step for women and men today both to undo the gendered architecture of our lives and to reconstruct our homes and lives as commons.

Many of the current examples of this kind of collectivization are taken from Indigenous communities in the Americas, including women in the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico. The enactment of the Women’s Revolutionary Law in that context strived to combat patriarchal domination by addressing women’s grievances with regard to political representation, labour, reproduction, and domestic violence. Indigenous feminisms in revolutionary movements have positioned women as intimately involved in the political and social struggles of the community. These movements have managed to avoid situations where Indigenous men and women are forced to enter the globalized capitalist economic system, which has reduced women’s power within the family. Under capitalism, paid economic labour has simultaneously been positioned over and against unpaid subsistence labour, while paradoxically depending on it.

A more recent example of feminist commoning is visible in the Kurdish Women’s Defense Force (YPJ) currently operating in the Rojava cantons (Afrin, Cizire, and Kobani) in the liberated region of Northern Syria, or western Kurdistan. Since 2012, the region has been largely governed by Kurdish militia, who have been in more or less constant battle with the surrounding Assad regime. The autonomous region has set up a series of district people’s councils, which collectively decide on matters of administration such as garbage collection, heating, land ownership, and cooperative enterprise. Women make up at least 40 percent of these councils, and autonomous women’s bodies have been additionally set up at each level in an effort to revolutionize the gender imbalance. In cases of internal conflict over issues directly concerning women (marriage, reproduction, polygamy, domestic violence), the women’s council has the right to overrule the mixed councils.

This particular effort to reverse gender imbalances and collectivize reproductive labour does not necessarily lead to a situation where women are isolated or pigeon-holed in domestic duties. Even in local examples of commoning, the importance of reproductive labour becomes clear as soon as efforts to cooperate emerge: questions of subsistence precede production and are its undeniable backbone. As feminist sociologist Maria Mies observes: “The way in which women’s subsistence work and the contribution of the commons to the concrete survival of local people are both made invisible … have common roots.… In a way women are treated like commons and commons are treated like women.”

The task, then, is to recognize and reverse this devaluation of reproductive labour and its inextricable relation to land and natural resources. A recent symposium in Berlin as part of the “Make City” festival attempted to tackle questions of how the commons can become a transnational project, beyond isolated local initiatives, and whether—from the perspective of architecture and urban planning in particular—it was possible to design the commons. What emerged, above all, was a sense that the topic concerned primarily social relations. Commons do not simply mean open and free access to land and natural resources, but rely on a deeper set of socio-political values that must be rooted in anti-colonial and feminist struggles.

ABOUT

Alison Hugill has a Master’s in Art Theory from Goldsmiths College, University of London (2011). Her research focuses on marxist-feminist politics and aesthetic theories of community, communication and communism. Alison is the editor of Berlin Art Link magazine, and a writer and curator based in Berlin. www.alisonhugill.com.

“Feminism and the Commons” is from our FOOD/LAND Issue (fall 2015)

New York: It’s time to speak out for your right to repair

This content was originally published by the Digital Right to Repair at www.digitalrighttorepair.org

 

The Fair Repair Bill

Right now, New York has a chance to pass the first Fair Repair bill in the nation. We have a chance to guarantee our right to repair electronics—like smartphones, computers, and even farm equipment. We have a chance to help the environment and stand up for local repair jobs—the corner mom-and-pop repair shops that keep getting squeezed out by manufacturers.

We’ve been working with local repair companies to come up with a solution. The Fair Repair Bill, known as S3998 in the State Senate and A6068 in the State Assembly, requires manufacturers to provide owners and independent repair businesses with fair access to service information, security updates, and replacement parts.

If you agree with us, find out who represents you in New York’s legislatures. Tell them you support the bipartisan Fair Repair bill, S3998 in the State Senate and A6068 in the State Assembly. Tell them that you believe repair should be fair, affordable, and accessible. Stand up for the right to repair in New York.

Note: you must be a resident of New York to submit a comment about this bill.

Electronics are making farm equipment harder to repair.

Kerry Adams, a family farmer in Santa Maria, California, found that out the hard way when he bought two transplanter machines for north of $100,000 apiece. They broke down soon afterward, and he had to fly a factory technician out to fix them.

TOOLS, MANUALS, AND PARTS ARE DIFFICULT TO COME BY.

Because manufacturers have copyrighted the service manuals, local mechanics can’t fix modern farming equipment. And today’s equipment—packed with sensors and electronics—is too complex to repair without them. That’s a problem for farmers, who can’t afford to pay the dealer’s high maintenance fees for fickle equipment.

Adams gave up on getting his transplanters fixed; it was just too expensive to keep flying technicians out to his farm. Now, the two transplanters sit idle, and he can’t use them to support his farm and his family.

GOD MAY HAVE MADE A FARMER, BUT COPYRIGHT LAW DOESN’T LET HIM MAKE A LIVING.

Photos courtesy Stawarz

Photos courtesy Stawarz

The National Grange agrees: “On behalf of over 200,000 members of the National Grange, we fully support the Right to Repair Act because we believe in an owner’s right to maintain, service, repair and rebuild their vehicle or farming equipment on their own accord or by the repair shop of their choice. Our members, most of them located in rural areas, value their ability and freedom to fix and repair their own vehicles, tractors and other farm equipment. Should they seek assistance elsewhere, local repair shops should have access to all necessary computer codes and service information in order to properly and efficiently make repairs.

“In addition, we believe that in the absence of the Right to Repair Act, many individuals, both rural and urban, would likely put off important vehicle repairs and maintenance, jeopardizing their safety and the safety of others on the road. It is also important to note that our members often farm and ranch in remote locations where repair shops are just not available. Days waiting on parts from dealers can mean missing crop target pricing, costing our members in agriculture a great deal of revenue.”

Oh, the good old days. With electronics these days you're lucky if you get a dipstick!

Oh, the good old days. With electronics these days you’re lucky if you get a dipstick!

Farmers are Fighting Back

More and more, farmers are turning to the internet to learn how to repair their complex equipment. They are turning to websites like iFixit to share techniques for maintaining equipment.

But it’s not enough.

WE NEED TO REQUIRE MANUFACTURERS MAKE EQUIPMENT FIELD-SERVICEABLE.

JOIN THE FIGHT

For more about how the right to repair is fundamental to the DIY and small farmer community, revisit Kyle Wein’s article on Ifixit.org a few months ago: New High-Tech Farm Equipment is a Nightmare for Small Farmers.

 

Farm Hack @ Draft Animal-Power Field Days, Sept 24-27 in Cummington, MA

Join Farm Hack at the 2015 Draft Animal-Power Field Days!

September 24-27 in Cummington, MA.

Farm Hack will host a workshop session on Saturday from 1:30-3:00 as well as a weekend-long build project focused on integrating draft and human power into standard vegetable production systems. Event page here.

Project #1:

The Homesteader is a new draft-powered multi-tool by Amish equipment manufacturer, Pioneer. One unique feature of the Homesteader is a unique quick hitch which makes switching the belly-mounted tools a snap. Our goal is to adapt this quick hitch mechanism for use with the Culticycle, a pedal-powered cultivating tractor. Culticycle inventor Tim Cook will bring a Culticycle and several of the hand built tillage tools he’s been working on.  See here for documentation of the Homesteader quick attach on Farm Hack.

Project #2:

Tractor-powered vegetable farms typically grow on a bed system that utilizes beds between 48″ and 60″ wide, growing most crops in multiple rows within the bed. Most horse-powered vegetable growers use a single-row system at 32-36″ spacing. This is because most horse-powered equipment available was designed for growing row crops such as corn. At the DAP Field Day, we will explore the possibility of adapting a single-row riding cultivator  to fit the wider bed-system spacing, with the goal of improving space efficiencies in horse-powered operations, and allowing the easier integration of tractor and draft power within a single farming system.

There are three crucial components to adapt a single-row cultivator for wider beds. First, the cultivator wheel-base must be widened. The wheel base on most cultivators is already adjustable, typically from 34-42″ but the adjustable axle will have to be extended as well as a linkage at the front of the cultivator. Second, a wider evener and neck yoke will have to be built to spread the horses apart. Third, team lines will have to be configured to spread the horses apart. See the recent conversation about this topic on the Draft Animal Power Network forums.