Farm Hack is a community-driven movement that brings farmers together with engineers, builders, welders, architects, software designers, and other skilled non-farmers to develop, document and build accessible, appropriate technology for more resilient agriculture. It’s based on the principles of sharing, open publication, and the evolution of design. And, the first one in California is taking place in Davis on November 16-17!
Written by guest blogger, Marisa Alcorta of ATTRA/NCAT.
High tech agriculture, here’s your answer to how small and mid-size farms will feed the world: one region at a time. Guided by high ideals, which include self-determination, democracy, and open source sharing, Farm Hack has developed a community of 20,000 members who design, develop, improve and share tools that make farming and food production accessible to all. This community exists both on-line and in person, with most of the design work and collaboration happening at events held on farms across the country.
The Upcoming Farm Hack Davis
On November 16th and 17th, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and the UC Davis Sustainable Ag Tech Innovation Center are sponsoring the first ever West Coast Farm Hack in Davis, CA! Farmers interested in collaborative design will come together with makers, builders, engineers, architects, fabricators, software designers and others to look at a handful of projects farmers are bringing to the table – literally. Farm projects at the event will be at various stages – from initial ideas on the back of a napkin to projects in the midst of being built. Together, participants will use the design process to understand, identify, and prototype. It will be a well-facilitated all-day design charrette, punctuated by inspirational shop talk, home-made equipment demonstrations, good food…and good beer.
The range of tools that have come out of past events include Fido, the greenhouse monitoring system, an electric tractor, a pedal powered root washer, a biodiesel processing trailer, and aerial imagery devices that can monitor plant health down to the cellular level. Who knows what we’ll come up with next? Registration is happening now!
About Farm Hack
Farm Hack started as a project of the National Young Farmers Coalition in 2010, but in early 2013 it evolved into its own non-profit to manage the on-line design forums, and provide support to the many farmers, and eventually organizations, who wanted to host events to bring people together. At its core are values of documentation and innovation, open publication and building on the work of those who came before. The web platform uses an open source coding and is Wiki based, so that anyone can add to it. Farm Hack has now added an Open Shops piece that allows groups or individuals to add a page that can act as a local base allowing communication and collaboration for hosting an event, posting new designs and keeping in touch. On top of all this, Farm Hack also addresses larger systemic issues.
Society has lost our connection with agriculture. Farm Hack re-connects us with our food system.
The domination of industrial agriculture in our culture has reshaped our society’s relationship with food production. Where once everyone in the community was involved in some way, such as trading eggs for the neighbor’s milk, now we pass laws to keep the pesky public from seeing how animals are raised. Vegetables are grown in thousand acre monocultures, using massive equipment with fancy technologies that are simply inaccessible, and intimidating to the public. It’s a far cry from gardening. Society has lost its connection with the food system, and Farm Hack wants to bring it back. Farmers may be at the core of the Farm Hack community, but software developers, architects, and mechanical engineers are essential to the growth and vitality of the group, too. They need each other in order to build an adaptable community network which can be responsive and resourceful, and open up opportunities for non-farmers to help create a food system that they believe in.
Tools and equipment are inaccessible for small farmers. Farm Hack levels the playing field by making technology more available and adapted to these smaller scale farms.
Not only has our relationship with food production changed, but the available tools and equipment are no longer scaled for small family farms. The industrial food system has evolved tools and technology to suit industrial scale agriculture. Most new farmers are warned to scale up fast or they won’t be able to compete. Industrial agriculture is highly mechanized and computerized, and its tools, systems and products are largely patent protected, expensive, and on a scale inappropriate for small and mid-size farmers engaged in producing food directly for their communities. Farm Hack wants to bring R&D back to the farm, DIY style. We need appropriate technology, driven by farmers and fueled by the creativity of a community with multiple skill sets. By dramatically reducing the price of technical improvements, environmental monitoring and automation, farms might start to gain an advantage on corporate ag. Farm Hack aims to tip the balance for smaller farms with limited resources by providing greater access to knowledge, data and technology. We don’t believe that “getting big or getting out” is the only viable model of production. Farm Hack hopes to turn the economies of scale argument on its head.
Farm Hack is responding to a new kind of agriculture.
Farm Hack is essentially a call to action: help take back our food system. Our ability to feed ourselves is fundamental to our liberty and self determination as a culture and a nation. The knowledge and tools that advance this most basic function of civilization should belong to all of society through open publication. Open source access allows for a rapid evolution of design and transfer of technology, which empowers farmers to farm more creatively, and more efficiently. Farm Hack was created in response to an emerging agriculture that is more direct and transparent, as people demand a connection to the food that they eat. These new agricultural enterprises are smaller, networked, more nimble and adaptive. They require seeds, breeds, and technologies that are flexible and reflect the changing needs of smaller and more complex systems. Agri-business can’t provide the solutions needed for this new, more adaptive, diverse, owner-operated agriculture. That’s all of our jobs, together.
Want more? Check out this video about Farm Hack!