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communication tools for farmers!

Posted: September 5 2009

and others in the food system... this will be a solid resource, and they could also use some help. Here's the word from designer (and greenhorn) Shawna Hein:
My sister started her farm, Honey in the Heart Farm, last year.  At the time I was in the middle of my graduate program at the UC Berkeley School of Information, and I was thinking about what I could do for my Master's Capstone Project -- I knew I wanted to do something that was designed for real people and real needs and that could potentially "make a difference" in the world.
We started talking about her struggles as a new farmer, and all the issues around communication and information sharing between farmers, their consumers, and the go-betweens (retailers and distributors).
This conversation led to a discussion with my classmates (Hazel Onsrud & Aylin Selcukoglu) about environmental and social issues in our current food system, and eventually resulted in a collaboration on our Master's Project, Squash & Vine.  Squash & Vine is a suite of tools build around an online social network to connect and aid collaboration between all the participants in the food system. Our design includes tools like an integrated search, audio updates, food networks, question and answer modules, and customizable activity filters.  Before designing this system, we interviewed close to 50 participants (farmers, ranchers, chefs, produce buyers, and consumers) in Northern California and determined their primary needs.  These findings are posted on our website so others can also address the needs we found.  We then designed our solution around our findings.  Additionally, I experimented this summer with text and audio updates for farmers while apprenticing at Honey in the Heart.  Check out my "Farm Field Notes"
Currently, we're looking for funding to build the site (right now it's only been designed!) so if anyone out there knows of awesome grants or angel investors please let us know :).  We also are working with CAFF (The Community Alliance with Family Farmers) and looking for grants together that we could use to implement Squash & Vine in collaboration with their Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign.
If any farmers or others reading this post simply want to learn more or have ideas or other tools they'd like to see included in Squash & Vine, please contact us through our website!
Thanks a lot,