All posts by roryaronson

What Open Source Means to OpenFarm

There are many ties between the Open Source movement and OpenFarm. Although our intention is to empower anyone to be able to grow the plants they desire, there is a larger concept that we have adopted as an organization. Many people have vague notions of what Open Source is (and isn’t) and I hope to expand the understanding of Open Source, especially as it pertains to OpenFarm, to Freedom, and to Accessibility. In other words, I’d like to explain why we put the “Open” in OpenFarm. 

Continue reading What Open Source Means to OpenFarm

OpenFarm Inc – A California Non-Profit Public Benefit Corporation

We’re proud to say that OpenFarm is officially incorporated as a California Non-Profit Public Benefit Corporation! Read on to see why we chose this legal entity.

First off, why have a legal entity at all? The answer is for several reasons:

  1. To separate and protect OpenFarm’s finances from our staff’s personal finances
  2. Because we offer a service and because we collect and store user information, we have liability. This means we need legal protection and insurance, of which a legal entity gives a framework for protecting our staff, our users, and the organization
  3. To hire and pay our staff members and pay any taxes due on revenues or other activities
  4. To enable us to partner with other organizations and individuals in a more formal way
  5. To allow the organization to be perpetuated if/when the founding team members move on
  6. To protect the organization from internal conflicts and interests especially related to ownership, intellectual property, and revenues
  7. To formalize the organization’s purpose in a legally binding way
  8. To ensure that any assets and capital the organization owns is in good trust to be used for the intended purpose of the organization

Of the legal entity options available, we considered the ones below and had the following thoughts about each. We ultimately chose the non-profit public benefit corporation based on our analysis of the options and our goals and intentions for the organization.

Continue reading OpenFarm Inc – A California Non-Profit Public Benefit Corporation

Preparing Others to Meet You

Something I took for granted while organizing meetings with horticulture professors or community members in the past month was their level of preparedness for our discussion.

I had planned in-person meetings, and also popped in to office hours to catch people who I thought could help OpenFarm. I would spend an hour mentally preparing for what I was going to discuss, what outcomes I was hoping for, and how to listen and see mutual ground between both of us. I know more about OpenFarm than 99% of the population after all, so I thought I would be adequately prepared for wherever our discussion would go. Instead, I found myself spending half of our time explaining what the heck this revolutionary new technology even was.

“Oh, so you want me to give you a list of places to find information on how to grow plants?”

“Well no, our goal is to encourage people to add that information themselves, and to make it fun, easy and engaging in the process.”

“But that information is already out there. Why are you trying to re-create the wheel?”

“Because it isn’t easy for the average person to find that advice, because most of that information is in English, because we don’t believe that there is only one way to grow something, because people don’t know if a plant grown in our area can grow in theirs.” Continue reading Preparing Others to Meet You

Transitions Conference Survey

Last week I (Kat Ying) attended a Transitions conference at Concordia University, a really active University in Montreal where I live. Some students, staff and organizations at this school are undertaking a big project to transition the food system of this campus to a local, sustainable, with student and community run and owned enterprises. It is a great dream.

So the majority of the people at this conference were people who have a hand in growing food, social enterprise, academics, activists, community organizers and farmers. They are my kind of people 😉 And they are really great people to collaborate on OpenFarm. They have a lot of knowledge and networks to share with OpenFarm; and OpenFarm could be a great platform for them to share their knowledge, work and projects with each other and more people too.

But I wonder how much can they connect to the OpenSource Ethos of OpenFarm? When I first hear about this project I had a lot of questions to ask about opensource. Basically I wanted to know, what makes this a community business, and not just-another-website. But after talking to Simon and Rory about the open source aspect of the website I began to see how we are so aligned. In fact, among gardeners, permaculturalists and community organizers, there is a lot of talk about ‘openknowledge, and openeconomies’ in our work. But I wondered, how much do the gardeners and community builders who could really use OpenFarm know and understand opensource and the creative commons as is meant for web site developing and intellectual property online? Especially since these are big tenets of the OpenFarm project? Continue reading Transitions Conference Survey

Network for Networks

One of the core and inspiring principles of OpenFarm is the Open aspect. I work in community development and gardening. This project has brought me into another magical realm of human creativity, the internet. Through this I have come to see how gardening, community organizing, and the internet are structurally analogous, networks. In all three the strength and the value grows when we network, and even more, when we share. In all three there is an inversion of how a capitalist system creates value. The more you hoard, the less abundant and valuable your product becomes. The more you share, the more you network, and the more you network the stronger and more abundant the products of the network become.

In Gardening and Farming we work with the soil. A couple weeks ago I attended a great conference about soil to kick of 2015 as The Year of Soil. The panel was almost as diverse as the complex substrate we were celebrating. An indigenous seed saver, a social entrepreneur, an artist, a local organic farmer, a social organizer, and a soil scientist. The social organizer called herself a soil worker. I found this a powerful metaphor. I like this thought of people and micro-organisms being functionally so similar, linking living things, structures, organizations and aggregates that together weave a complex, mysterious and wonderfully habitable space. Continue reading Network for Networks

Navigating the Networks in Your Community

Without community participation, OpenFarm would be a mere shell. It must be fleshed out by the people it is designed to serve. So who are these people and how do you connect with them?

I was recently invited to an event through my Facebook network that was geared towards connecting and encouraging collaboration between social entrepreneurs, green businesses, non-profits, healers and farmers. It was hosted by a man I had only ever seen on Facebook, but that some friends had met. He is a self proclaimed lover of laughter yoga, creating space for deep conversations, and social connection. He is the kind of person who (over)zealously posts on Facebook, leading many of his friends and followers to think he’s spamming them. Perhaps its a generational thing. Nevertheless, Rob (let’s call him Rob) is a valuable ally for the community developer. Rob represents the hub that has the potential to connect you to the far reaches of his wheel of influence and connection. Continue reading Navigating the Networks in Your Community

The Interview Process

You’ve probably begun to notice, but an overarching theme in entrepreneurship is customer development, more specifically what we’ve dubbed GOOBing or Getting Out of the Building. The purpose being to listen to what people have to say about their problems and how they currently go about solving them. The best way to do this: face-to-face interviews.

After we identified our two target customer segments of beginning gardeners and experienced gardeners, we decided it was time to get GOOBin’. We set out to venture to places where we would find a mix of both starting- out gardeners and the more experienced. Over the course of a few weeks the team got out to multiple Farmer’s Markets in and around SLO, various nurseries and DIY stores (i.e. Miner’s Ace), and reached out to gardeners of SLO’s very own community gardens. We made connections with many active gardeners in our community including a network of Master Gardeners with whom we were able to talk with on multiple occasions.  Continue reading The Interview Process