the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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the right to repair movement takes on apple and john deere in nebraska

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Photograph: Olivia Solon for the Guardian

“Kyle is one of many farmers in the US fighting for the right to repair their equipment. He and others are getting behind Nebraska’s “Fair Repair” bill, which would require companies to provide consumers and independent repair shops access to service manuals, diagnostic tools and parts so they aren’t limited to a single supplier. They have an unlikely ally: repair shops for electronic items like iPhones, tablets and laptops who struggle to find official components and information to fix broken devices. This means the bill could benefit not just farmers but anyone who owns electronic goods. There’s also a benefit to the environment, as it would allow for more refurbishment and recycling instead of sending equipment to the landfill,” Continue reading


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the right to repair and the role of open source technology.

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The right to repair movement is gaining traction across the globe despite pushback from powerful industries, however there is little dispute that it is being led by farmers seeking alternatives to costly licensing restrictions. Farm Hacks and open source technology are issues that are close to our hearts here at Greenhorns and we are delighted to see the continual growth of the movement.

“Imagine that you’re a farmer who bought a John Deere tractor for $25,000 – or perhaps a big, heavy-duty model for $125,000 or more.  Then something goes wrong with the computer software inside the tractor (its “firmware”).  Thanks to a new licensing scheme, only John Deere can legally fix the tractor – for exorbitant repair prices.  Or maybe you want to modify the tractor so it can do different things in different ways.  So sorry:  the license prohibits you from bypassing the encryption, taking it to an independent repair shop, or fixing it yourself.” 

– An excerpt from David Bollier’s recent article about open source technology and the right to repair.

To read the full article click HERE


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if you wanted to track your local wind patterns…

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We’ve got another good one for all of our fellow map geeks out there. Sev just learned about Windy TV from the lighthouse keeper in the Azores. The website provides a real-time map visualization of wind and weather patterns around the globe. It allows the user to zero in on a specific address or to get a satellite’s-eye-view of whole continents, and it’s a great tool for educating yourself about about predominant wind patterns and their seasonal variations.

Utility aside, we’d be remiss for not mentioning that the visualization is in and of itself downright gorgeous; as far as we’re concerned this is kind of the best way to spend time on the internet since Google Earth.

Oh, and bonus? Windy TV also provides your local forecast five days out without the encroachment of ads.

It makes so much sense to be as familiar with the wind as you are with your coastline, your local watershed, your local politics…

The air is moving! Can you feel it?!


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an alternative route to farm financing

 

photo credit – Don Graham

Recently a friend of mine ran a pretty successful crowdfunding campaign to help secure a startup loan for her and her partners farm. I had heard of Kiva before (socially focused micro loans) but this was the first time I actually checked the organization out.

Crowd-sourcing has it’s detractors. For a while there it seemed like kickstarter was set to be the worlds largest purveyors of ‘knick-knacks with a purpose’. But given barriers to finance, they actually can be useful tools. It takes town and a community to grow food and it makes sense to have communities and people directly invested in the success of farms and businesses in their regions.

Kiva has a fairly simple concept and for folks that want to go around traditional forms of debt, ie banks, this could be another option. The part of this organization that makes the most sense is that there is 0% interest. Even though I am not a financial specialist, I can state pretty unequivocally that’s a pretty good percent rate for interest! It’s also a unique way to get community buy in for your farm without having to secure 1000 individual small contributions (and the paperwork and legalities that would entail).

Other social, agriculture, and community related crowd financing platforms exist as well. The slow money movement’s Beetcoin is a good example.

So, if you have been looking into different financing to help get things off the ground take a second to look into this organizations and some of the other successful small farms that have used the tool for funding their projects.

you can check Kiva’s site here


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before you throw rocks, read this book

To many activists in the Bay Area and other cities in the US, “tech” has become a dirty word. It can feel like large tech companies are steamrolling through cities and neighborhoods, destroying traditional jobs, ushering in gentrification, raising rents, and obliviously pushing the little guy around.

As a result, there’s been justifiable anger, protests, and blow back against these companies. In his book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Douglas Rushkoff suggests a more measured approach. Yes, these tech companies have done wrong, but Rushkoff believes the digital economy doesn’t have to be all bad:

This isn’t the fault of digital technology at all, but the way we are deploying it: instead of building the distributed digital economy these new networks could foster, we are doubling down on the industrial age mandate for growth above all. As Rushkoff shows, this is more the legacy of early corporatism and central currency than a feature of digital technology. In his words, “we are running a 21st century digital economy on a 13th Century printing-press era operating system.”

Protest however you see fit, but give this thoughtful book a read to expand the discussion and hear another point of view. You can buy it HERE or head on over to your local library to find a copy.

farm hack, atelier


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commons based technology: a glimpse inside l`atelier paysan

farm hack, atelier

Farmer, tool hacker, organizer, and self styled agricultural anthropologist (and, we’re proud to say, a GH blog editor) Samuel Oslund takes us on a journey into les Rencontres de l’Atelier Paysan. Les Rencontres is a yearly gathering of farmers from across France, hosted by our French farm hacking heroes  l’Atelier Paysan (roughly The Peasant’s/agrarian Workshop).  The event is a hands on skill sharing celebration, filled with food, good wine, and some fairly strange music. Continue reading


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photosynq: open source platform for collaborative problem solving

grassrootsmappingforum250wordsPhotosynQoverview

“PhotosynQ is an open source software and sensor platform where communities can identify, research, and implement new methods to solve their local problems. Our initial focus is on agriculture, where we’re bringing together researchers, extension, crop consultants, and farmers to develop precision ag solutions in markets largely ignored by ‘big ag’ (small farms, niche crops, developing world markets, etc.). Examples include sensor-based methods for early identification of disease, mid-season prediction of yield, evaluating soil quality, and many others.

Our perspective is that sharing data simply isn’t enough – data quality is paramount to produce results that actually matter. Data must be collected using consistent methods, comparable devices, with strategies to identify outliers. Even with all that in place, the community has to have the skills to collect, analyze, and interpret the data correctly with minimal mistakes. At the same time, every project’s data needs are different – different methods, devices, methods of analysis, etc. While consistency and flexibility seem at odds, we’ve worked hard to make a platform in which they both exist, and scaling from new user to a developer is relatively easy. Unlike Xively or other streaming IoT data sites, we’re not trying to be the solution to every IoT problem. If you’re trying to track the temperature in your garage, we’re probably not what you’re looking for. If you’re trying to collaborate across a community, solve a complex problem, and develop a sensor-enabled solution… we’re worth checking out.

Go to www.photosynq.org for more. Hope to see you there!”