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the open source ethos in agroecology

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Illustration by Freya Yost

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.

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the incredible american-made, open source, radically accessible, and utterly adaptable tractor

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!


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farm hack needs you! help fun the patriot weeder!

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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!

 

 


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dph: cool information directory

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The idea of the dph database of experiences was born in 1986 from the desire to link people and groups working towards the construction of a responsible world of solidarities. We hope to make both memory and experiential reflection available on this resource site. We also hope to enhance the analysis and the experiences through an easy search process and the availability of results that can prove useful to citizens’ actions.

A balance between action and reflection

dph is an initiative of the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind (FPH). This Foundation has always promoted a balanced approach between action and reflection. This philosophy is underpinned by two priorities: the emphasis placed on development and dissemination of ideas, the emphasis placed on methodology.

The FPH has promoted international exchange of experience for 20 years, as a prerequisite of « usefulness to action ». This is also the underlying approach behind the creation and enriching of the dph experiential database developed in partnership with Ritimo.

To learn more, click HERE!


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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!”


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open sourcing the q&a for state land rfp

There are 9 farms in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that are part of a special program called the Countryside Initiative. These Park farms are committed to sustainable agriculture, and work with their park partners to be good land stewards. Earlier this year, the Countryside Initiative Request For Proposals (RFP) opened for two new farms. All questions asked specific to the farm program and farm properties listed in the RFP were publicly answered here.

This is a valuable resource to those of you looking to lease land through National Parks across the country (a growing movement). Click HERE to check out the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Countryside Initiative!


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wired: hardware design should be free. here’s how to do it.

Hardware Design Should Be Free. Here’s How to Do It.

by Richard Stallman

in Wired

WE MUST DESIGN free hardware. But the question remains: how?

First, we must understand why we can’t make hardware free the same way we make software free. Hardware and software are fundamentally different. A program, even in compiled executable form, is a collection of data which can be interpreted as instruction for a computer. Like any other digital work, it can be copied and changed using a computer. A copy of a program has no inherent physical form or embodiment.

KEEP READING to find out more about free hardware design.