Pull up a laptop and join the conversation. Do you have a farming issue on your mind, or maybe a tool design that you’d like to share, a crop problem that needs to be solved, a beginner’s question that needs to be answered, or an intriguing idea that needs to be floated? If you do, Farm Hack is the place to go.
It’s not the Bellyache Café, however. Leave all complaints, rants and political opinions at the door.
This might be unusual for a web-based conversation site, to say the least, but there is a lot about Farm Hack that is unusual, as I found out last week when I attended a Farm Hack ‘meet-up’ in Hotchkiss, on Colorado’s western slope. A small group of farmers, ranchers and conservationists met for a day to tackle the difficult topic of “Drought Resilience on a Small-scale Farm” against the backdrop of rising water scarcity in the West. If ever a subject needed a coffee-shop brainstorm, this was it.
The nonprofit Farm Hack (www.farmhack.net) bills itself as an “Open Source Community for a Resilient Agriculture.” It was born during a design workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology involving engineers and young farmers and quickly evolved into an online platform to document, share and improve farm tools. If you are a young farmer in possession of an old tool, or a veteran farmer who seeks a new tool or someone who has invented a new practice or has a cool idea in mind, Farm Hack is the place to go. A quick peek at the web site, for example, reveals ‘how to’ information on the benefits of a small axial flow combine harvester (way cooler than it sounds), picking the right organic carrot seeds, implementing a web-connected irrigation system, trying a pedal-powered rootwasher, and using low-cost overhead balloon-mounted cameras for imaging a farm.
If that sounds more ‘tool shed’ than coffee shop, Farm Hack is also where young farmers – including the young-at-heart – can start a conversation with experienced agrarians, skirting the need to reinvent various wheels on the farm (unless your wheel is of an exotic design!). Case studies of successful operations will soon be available for farmers to peruse. In addition, the site serves as a platform to share the latest sustainable ag research and make connections with like-minded individuals and organizations.