Farm Hack, in partnership with Chris Callahan from UVM and with funding from USDA NE-SARE have recently completed an overhaul of their tool pages. This work was part of a project aimed at delivering an improved collective innovation, distribution & education, and impact assessment platform for sustainable farm and food innovations such as those accomplished in SARE projects.Shiny New Tool Library at Farmhack.org
As we approach the completion of our SARE project implementation, we have conducted surveys of past SARE PI’s and have just launched a re-designed 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 Section Features:
Smartphone and tablet friendly
Improved Tool Search functionalities
Easier documentation process
New “like” and “I have built this” buttons on tool pages
New help feature for user troubleshooting
We’ll be hosting a community webinar on two dates to provide a live walk-through of the new Tools Section to help familiarize users with the new features and get your feedback. We hope you can join us for one of them. These webinars are free. No registration is required. There will be time for Q&A. The sessions will be recorded and posted on Farm Hack.
As you might remember, Farm Hack in partnership with Chris Callahan, Agricultural Engineer at University of Vermont, received a SARE grant in summer of 2015 to improve the Farm Hack platform for all users, and specifically for the documentation of SARE-funded tool ideas. Hundreds of really interesting design ideas are funded and documented on the SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) website each year, but the lengthy and somewhat hard to navigate pdf database does not facilitate sharing of designs very easily. That’s where the Farm Hack platform came in!
To upgrade the Farm Hack website, we surveyed SARE principal investigators as well as Farm Hack users to glean insight into what features we should improve to add on. In partnership with our software engineer partners we focused on making our growing tool database more easily searchable, and put a lot of work into the tool documentation page to make the process easier and more accessible, and make the resulting tool page more searchable and useful to community members. We also added an “ask an admin” pop up feature to encourage questions and feedback.
We are very excited about this next iteration of the Farm Hack platform, and hope it helps move our community towards further sharing and collaboration of useful, well-designed open source farm technology and tools.
We want your two cents on the site updates! Feel free to leave a comment on this blog post to start the conversation.
A few years ago, while Chattanooga, Tenn., made headlines for revitalizing its downtown, residents, mostly African-Americans, living just a few miles away in the Glass Farms neighborhood, were struggling to cope with years of disinvestment and decline. Storefronts were empty, buildings abandoned. Crime was through the roof.
A tiny, local nonprofit, Glass House Collective, then formed, enlisting neighbors and designers. Public workshops were held. Low-cost plans were devised for new sidewalks, bus shelters, streetlights and green spaces along the neighborhood’s main drag, Glass Street. A vacant lot became a pop-up community center. Artisans moved in to train young residents to make furniture and other things. The steps were small, tactical, targeted. Crime fell.
“By the People: Designing a Better America,” opening on Friday at the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, taps into a rich vein of entrepreneurial beneficence. It is about the intersection of poverty, prosperity, innovation and design, and it couldn’t be timelier. If stories like the one from Chattanooga unavoidably turn out to be more complicated than any museum display can make clear, the spotlight is at least pointed in the right direction.
Reynoldstown Senior Housing, a project under construction near the Atlanta BeltLine, features 70 units of affordable housing.CreditAtlanta BeltLine Inc.
As the show’s title implies, design is not just the task of designers. The exhibition celebrates a few outstanding architects, like David Baker andMichael Maltzan, who have conceived subsidized housing in California, and also Jeanne Gang, the Chicago star, who wants to improve relations between the community and law enforcement by reimagining police stations as neighborhood hubs, with gardens and gyms, meeting rooms and free Wi-Fi.
Mostly, though, the show is about ideas collectively developed or bubbling up from the bottom. What results can take numerous forms: a plan to shrink Detroit; a pedal-powered tractor; an ironic board game explaining the housing market; a jewelry business employing formerly homeless women to make items using chipped-off graffiti; an online tool for mapping commute times; labels on baby products with child-rearing tips.
In other words, “By the People” is about just what it says, everyday citizens cooking up solutions to what ails their communities. That tractor evolved from crowd-sourced tinkering on an open platform called Farm Hack, a grass-roots website developed by family-farming Davids competing with industrial agriculture’s Goliaths, sharing strategies about how to grow healthy food and build tools and machinery, economically. The system is imperfect, but then, so is democracy.
Cynthia E. Smith is the Cooper Hewitt’s curator of socially responsible design. She spent years traveling the country, logging 50,000 miles, looking for examples of people “designing a better America.” In 2007, Ms. Smith presented “Design for the Other 90 Percent,” a compilation of 34 inexpensive, lifesaving objects, including a filtered drinking straw to stem the spread of cholera; and the Q Drum, a kind of tire, holding up to 13 gallons of water, which could be rolled long distances even by children. Big things grown from small seeds.
That event led four years later to a show focused on cities. Ms. Smith highlighted floating schools in flood-prone Bangladesh; a kind of do-it-yourself irrigation system in Dakar, Senegal; a new management and community-development plan for slums in Bangkok; and the story ofDiadema, an industrial city outside São Paulo, where informal settlement and homicide were the norms. Officials in Diadema enlisted residents to help formalize and design their neighborhoods. Deaths plummeted.
Ms. Smith said back then, “It’s easy to build a house, much harder to build a community.” Good design, she added, “involves bringing not just a fresh eye to problems but, most of all, listening to the people who live in those communities.”
That’s simple to say and not always enough, but it remains a good operating principle and the abiding motif in “By the People,” which offers its own mash-up of do-good projects, 60 in all. One could probably think, offhand, of 60 deserving alternatives for what’s in the end a contestable, albeit noble, sampling. By their nature, these sorts of shows are tonics and provocations, suggestive rather than definitive, shy on eye candy, requiring comfortable shoes and lots of squinting at wall texts.
In return, there’s a gee-whiz quotient — so many people, so many good, simple, can-do ideas. So much hope.
I was struck by a project like Fresh Moves. Across the country, obesity and diabetes have become epidemic in food deserts, meaning low-income neighborhoods without easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables, where fast food is often the cheapest or only option. In Chicago, officials have doubled the number of city-run farmers’ markets and supported efforts like Fresh Moves, which converts disused city buses into brightly decorated mobile farm stands, transporting local organic produce to where people most need it. The project was the brainchild of young architects then nurtured by Growing Power, an agricultural nonprofit in the city, in collaboration with Hammersley Architecture and a graffiti artist. The number of Chicagoans living in food deserts has now dropped 40 percent.
Fresh Moves, a program in Chicago, converts disused city buses into mobile farm stands. Above, Fresh Moves 1.0, by Architecture for Humanity Chicago, Latent Design and EPIC.CreditSmithsonian Institution
It was just reported this week that 2015 was the first year poverty declined and incomes rose across America since the economy collapsed in 2008. Even so, some 43 million Americans, including at least 14 million children, still live below the poverty line. Families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. Not everyone can wait for the government to fix things.
That’s what this show is ultimately about. And about the forces that can thwart even the best intentions. There was also news on Monday that two prominent members of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership board resigned. The BeltLine project is included in the exhibition. It was dreamed up more than a dozen years ago by a former urban planning student at Georgia Tech, Ryan Gravel. The idea: Turn four of the city’s abandoned rail beds into a green loop around downtown, producing parks and paths, art centers and housing; promoting bikes and walking over automobiles; linking rich and poor neighborhoods, black and white; generating billions of dollars in investments.
The rails-to-trails concept took off. Mr. Gravel became a hero. The city and private developers showered the project with money. Housing prices skyrocketed along the route. But so did fears of displacement in low-income areas. Only one-tenth of the promised 5,600 new units of subsidized housing have been built. The BeltLine recently announced plans to raise money for more affordable housing, but the board members who resigned didn’t consider that enough.
One of them is Mr. Gravel.
The other, Nathaniel Smith, said that if the BeltLine “is about community engagement and community voice and about equity, we have to live by those values.” He added, “We can’t say that and do something else.”
So, as I said, some stories turn out to be more complicated. But nobody said progress was easy.
Come and join us for a weekend in June on a Burgundy farm! Atelier Paysan is organising a gathering on the 17th, 18th and 19th June 2016 : AGM, agricultural DIY fair, practical workshops, talks, concerts and banquets…
3 days in June to include in your cropping plan!
BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW! 3 days in June where you can meet fellow farmers, have a go at welding and other metal work, get an overview of the technical innovations in our network, as well as feedback your reflections and imagine together the cooperative’s future.
We have organised more workshops and debates to oil up our rusty skills and jump start our enthusiasm to take part and learn! To break the ice, nothing better than a banquet and some good wine. And with spirited concerts in the evening, this will be a real Rock & Roll adventure!
Friday 17th June
Saturday 18th June
Sunday 19th June
Welcome, Atelier Paysan’s AGM
1st agricultural DIY fair: reports and demonstrations of the network’s machinery and agricultural building designs
Take part in a workshop whatever your level of skill:
workshop to convert the host farm’s equipment to the quick hitch triangle system.
workshop modifying a piece of kit
Making a pedal powered agricultural tool with Farming Soul
Constructing a mobile pig shelter (wood and metal)
Where? In Burgundy: The Domaine Saint Laurent (a farm producing meat, dairy products, vegetables and wood) is in the parish of Château, 2 kms outside the town of Cluny in Bourgogne (http://www.domaine-saint-laurent.fr/).
It’s easy to reach ! By train: TGV train station of Mâcon with regular shuttles onto Cluny By car: One hour north of Lyon, 20 mins from Mâcon.
What will we eating? Breakfast and lunch for all 3 days is included in price, as well as Friday evening’s barbecue, provided by Le Pain sur la Table, an organic caterer (http://lepainsurlatable.fr/). You will however have to pay for your wine-inspired conversations. Wine producers will be there to provision you…
Where will we sleep? You can camp on the farm, or rented accommodation. Arrivals from Thursday evening onwards.
One of these tools is the Triangle Quick Hitch, which was the focus of a Farm Hack event in 2012 and is also documented on the Farm Hack site. This is a system several farms in the US have already implemented as a cheaper, open-source alternative to proprietary quick hitch systems, and one that is already more widespread in Europe.
Another precious nugget that Atelier Paysan has developed is the self-build guide:
With tutorials and technical drawings to build 16 tools adapted to organic vegetable production, this book is an instruction manual for becoming self-sufficient in terms of farming machinery. Included are principles of self-building, methods and techniques, regulatory considerations, and most importantly, examples of tools tested by vegetable growers presented in the form of building tutorials, allowing you to develop your skills and expertise around the tools you work with.
The guide is spiral bound and 246 pages long with a folding cover, designed to be easy to use and long lasting. It will accompany you in your farming project and throughout your career. It’s a source of inspiration which you can use and enrich with your own adaptations.
Unfortunately translating this guide book into English is a big project, so it has not yet been done. If you have several thousand dollars or an inclination to translate this technical manual, get in touch.
The work of Atelier Paysan in the field of training farmers and organizing collaborative development and building of tools for biological agriculture is truly inspiring to us, and we look forward to continue learning from and collaborating with them!
Building on the experience of POC21 and the OuiShare Awards, we are launching a 3-day accelerator for collaborative, open source projects with high social impact. The goal is to overcome challenges in areas such as product design, business models or scalability.
Two initiatives will be selected directly by a jury of experts, the third nominee will be chosen through an online community vote. OuiShare Fest Forward is open for projects of various legal status and stages of development. The only two application requirements are that the project be Open Source and aims to create a Positive Impact. The projects will be evaluated according to their potential social impact, their synergy with the OuiShare values and the key topics of the OuiShare Fest 2016.
The members of the selected projects have free access to the Fest. Online Applications are open until February 29th. If you have a great open source project and a challenge you want to solve, apply here!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
We are always looking for developers to join in on current and future projects. We meet weekly through Google Hangout on Thursday evenings. Contact email@example.com if you want to join the call.
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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.