the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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citizen science vs. dicamba

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credit: 지우 황/flickr 

This citizen science group at PublicLab is starting to corral expertise, team-craft and discover potential scientific inquiry methodologies to look at this terrifying trend of toxic and ever more toxic agrichemicals. Conventional farmers, as well as organic farmers, are profoundly concerned by this militarization of agronomy, it becoming a situation of “Spray or be Sprayed”. How tragic for rural communities that those who spray are likely to be those who also take over the operations of those drifted upon. Low commodities prices, high input costs, and precarious farm viability means that consolidation is only one bad year away—equipment for auction, land for sale, its the brutal contraction and internal colonization of rural America.
 Meanwhile there is no regulatory protection offered as the EPA has approved the new “less volatile” Monsanto-formulated Dicamba. The mass-spraying of these chemicals, particularly now that EU has opted to phase out Roundup, seems like a powerful leverage point to mobilize citizens, and citizen scientists working on behalf of the public good, the public trust, the public body which is our watershed, our watercycle, our drinking water and our farmlands.
If you know people near soybeans who can test, if you know toxicologists or environmental scientists who might be interested to coordinate DIY testing kits, or others whose teamwork could form part of a solidarity action, please send them along to this Public Lab page – it’s a group that helps pull together the teams needed to take on large scale data collection projects.  If enough people are willing to show up, we may have the chance to demonstrate our solidarity with coming generations, and engage in a meaningful resistance!
Spread the word to scientists you know, and ask for insights from farmers you know, the future is in OUR hands.


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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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sowing the seeds of food sovereignty.

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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.

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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!