Last Sunday Serve Your Country Food had it’s big debut, with a little feature in the NYTimes Style Magazine on Food Fighters.
Severine is a tireless and inspiring leader of a new movement The Greenhorns .. young, first generation farmers leaving standard urban and suburban living (but not always leaving urban and suburban land) to grow food, care for the land, and feed us! Farming has been a shrinking and devalued profession, despite the growing recognition of the supreme value of what we put in our bodies. If we care for ourselves and our own health, we need to care for the people and the land making our food. ServeYourCountryFood.net says it better than I can.
One of the Greenhorns greatest tricks is to make farming look cool. Following the conceit of Bruce Sterling and Viridian. Farming is cool!
So who is this growing movement of young farmers? Where are they, what are their victories and challenges, and how can we help? That’s what this first generation of the site aims to answer. It’s a publicly accessible census of new farmers and collects a variety of economic, demographic and cultural information about these greenhorns. Digital recognition and support of this movement.
The site is hand drawn. We wanted to reach out with an aesthetic that connects with the people we’re engaging. On the whole they’re pretty tech savvy, many are evening internet addicts with nothing else going on the farm. But they put in a lot of work, with their own hands. Brooke Budner of the Victory Gardens drew the map by hand, made all the illustrations, and wrote out all the labels. Many commendables! I scanned and processed and georectified. Lots of work. If we get a chance to work more on this, first thing will be to make a “Brooke Font” so she doesn’t need to write out page after page of labels. Other further ideas, if resources come through, are bringing in the great collection of relevant American maps Severine found and animating the growth and change of young farmers over time.
The site itself is rails, coded by Shoaib and Kashif of Nomad Labs.
The site more or less officially launched at the greenhorns rabbit roast, a weekend camping event of farm geeking at the absolutely lovely Glynwood Center. The high point was definitely Severine’s evening “workshop” on slaughtering rabbits. Severine raises rabbits for food .. they’re highly energy efficient for food production, a growing specialty item ($$$), relatively easy to care for .. and extremely cute, which cuts to the heart of our relationship of the food production process.
In front of a crowd of 25 rapt onlookers, Severine described and performed every minute step of the slaughter and skinning of this rabbit, including her own very physical reactions. She’s entirely self taught, and this was only her third ever slaughter. Everyone was absolutely fascinated .. most everyone had never seen an animal slaughtered before (except fishing) and the atmosphere was charged with the kind of surgical theater of the enlightenment age. Here’s a photo of a late stage of the process. I don’t eat mammals, but if I did I’d want to be fully aware of the life and death of what I ate. I would’ve sampled this one anyway, if the bicycle powered rotisserie had shown up on time!
The rest of the weekend was pretty fun too. Fascinating talk on the trouble of standard bee keeping practice and new anarchic bee keeping!. Rural Route Films and a bicycle touring, bicycle powered band, and lots of good foods.
At the rabbit roast, I jokingly talked about starting a dating service for isolated farmers (not too many cool young people out in the sticks). No joke, Farmers Only does exist.
That was good to discover, it confirmed an unconfirmed hunch I’ve had about social media tools and farming. We talked about food at WhereCamp, and the one thing we agreed on is the leverage power of more information on and engagement with food production. It seems to me the best way to unearth that information is by connecting with farmers themselves. But with so many other laborious tasks to tackle, how to bring farmers to the table.
As with any social media, self interest is key. At Where 2.0, I was immensely impressed by Patients Like Me. From a purely selfish viewpoint, the tools to track the course of disease treatment are useful. But on top of that, there’s the opportunity to network with people nearby, and afar, who have the same illness, to compare notes and build support. And again on top of that, large scale studies of self-reported treatment results are undertaken. Beautiful melding of the selfish and the social.
What’s that have to do with farming? I envision a social site for farmers that works on all three levels. Easy tools to track the course of farming .. from sowing to reaping. Extremely light weight, no big forms, twitter style, smart text parsing .. to pull out detailed stats on how things go. Tools to draw and plan the the farming area. Entirely self serving .. tools to help track how the farming goes. There’s detailed, highly complex farm tracking processes for industrial farming; so we’re looking to neo-farming informatics approach. Making this information socially accessible brings another level. New farmers and other farmers in the area can learn how different crops fare in the area, share knowledge on how to build, pool resources. Finally, all this personal, direct information can attracts buyers and consumers, who want a direct connection with the people and source of their food. Social software for farmers. That’s the idea, where we’re going .. how can we do this?