“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
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
The mission of A Growing Culture is “supporting farmers to reshape the food system” to ensure that the future of agriculture is just, sustainable and supportive of farmers. We are very excited about the wide range of resources they have to support farmers, not least their much anticipated Library for Food Sovereignty. The library, due for release in the late summer or early autumn of 2017, will include stories of farmer led innovations from around the world, local knowledge, grassroots farming movements and technical and environmental resources.
The following paper, submitted to the Greenhorns by Freya Yost, Vice President of A Growing Culture, traces the building blocks of Agroecology (local knowledge, resilience, cultural traditions, working with nature) and analyzes them within the context of our current technological culture. This is a long but compelling piece, scholarly without being a sludge to read, accessible in tone and content, and we highly encourage everyone to read it.
The basic premise is something that we know intuitively without necessarily having articulated it: that Agroecology is an inherently open source tradition whose knowledge and genetics have been co-opted, constrained, and privatized by for profit– to the great detriment of small farmers and ecological networks. The paper’s author casts our eyes simultaneously forward to the internet age and down to myccorrhizal networks to find hopeful models for creating egalitarian ways of producing and disseminating information to small farmers. The ultimate suggestion here– and it’s one of grave importance– is that those of us who are invested in the success of regenerative and sustainable growing ought also to be deeply committed to the overturning of proprietary development models and privatized knowledge systems. As the author writes:
All these dimensions make farming one of the most demanding and knowledge-intensive professions in the world. Sadly, because farmers are also some of the poorest people on Earth, lack of information can have devastating effects. Entire regions are vulnerable to being forced to adopt proprietary practices. Lack of information access puts farmers’ autonomy at risk. Open is not just an environmental issue, it is also a social justice issue.
The Open Source Ethos
Open access is an ancient public good.
Western discourse around open access has largely been restricted to academic, scholarly communications circles. In fact, many friends and colleagues have told me they first encountered open access when, after graduating from university, they were confronted with the fact they no longer had access to school databases; or when online article searches reached the dead-end prompt “click here to pay for access.”
The internet now provides a free platform for sharing knowledge. How is it possible—or even socially just—that so many of us can’t get access to scholarly research? Isn’t society propelled forward by access to the science, literature, and art of the world’s scholars? What if that research is publically funded? These are the primary concerns that drive the open access movement.
One thing that is clear when you look at Oggún’s website, watch its videos, and study its tractor, is that this a no-frills organization. No frills: just results. And that is precisely why we love them and it so much.
In his ever-relevant essay “In Distrust of Movements,” Wendell Berry writes that the local food and land movement must “content itself to be poor,” because, “We need to find cheap solutions, solutions within the reach of everybody, and the availability of a lot of money prevents the discovery of cheap solutions. The solutions of modern medicine and modern agriculture are all staggeringly expensive, and this is caused in part, and maybe altogether, because of the availability of huge sums of money for medical and agricultural research.”
What we see here, in the Oggún tractor, is exactly what kind of practical, pragmatic results come from a thrifty approach. Accessing Cuba’s local food shortage, Cuban-born Horace Clemmons and his business partner Saul Berenthal quickly realized that Cuban farmers needed technology that was simple, rugged, and easy-to-repair. And then they asked, why don’t tractors like this already exist, tractors like the original Allis Chalmers G that farmers in the US used in the 1950s? They suspected that stock-based shareholder business models might be to blame: too much money and the input of too many people with money who just do not understand the problems of small farmers.
So, in the grand spirit of Farm Hack, they used open-source technology to build a tractor with all off-the-shelf parts. Thus, repairs can be done in the field and in small local machine shops. Oggún adapted its business model to keep over-head costs low, partner closely with other local businesses, and never develop products that are planned for obsolescence. The tractors is made in Alabama, but it’s available to and possibly revolutionary for small family farmers all around the world.
Tune into Greenhorns Radio today at 4:00 PM to hear Locky Carton, Oggún partner and graduate of the University of Iowa’s agricultural business program, speak more about this exciting project. If you can’t tune in today, don’t forget that a podcast version of our show is always available at the Heritage Radio Network!
In the grand tradition and the innovative spirit of Farm Hack, Lu Yoder is embarking on an engineering adventure to respond to the lack of effective, versatile, adaptive, and cheap weeding systems for smaller-scale farms. The goal is to produce an open-source mechanical weeder that can be easily replicated with common materials and scaled up or down depending on each individual farmer’s needs. Hypothetically, this could be mounted on a tractor, walking tractor, or bicycle-powered cultivator.
On the project’s gofundme.com page, you can find more detailed information and a breakdown of costs. They are trying to raise $7,500 in the next month, which, we want to point out, is very little compared to the possible savings for farms across the country. Come on Greenhorns community! We can do this!
For more information on Farmhack in general, check out the website!