Category Archives: OpenFarm Blog

August Dev Update

Team Twitches has been with us for a couple of weeks now and the work they’re doing has been fantastic. We’re seeing some great updates and their presence has been a great boost to activity on the site in general.

So where are we at?

In the last while we:

  • fixed our crop creation flow.
  • made it so that when you edit your garden the data fields are no longer blank until page refresh.
  • added the database functionality and logic to add tracking of your gardens’ crops. OpenFarm will now keep track of the stages of your gardens crops for you. Our next step here is to visualize that information in a pretty way so that you can come back to your crops from your garden and see how you did it last year. Actual tracking!
  • added the ability to specify a taxonomic group on crops
  • fixed some speed issues on the site which made it unusable for some users.
  • fixed our sign up flow
  • added better social media pages
  • fixed style problems on our home page
  • fixed our bootstrapping script for vagrant
  • and added a gitten badge

Thanks so much to Vrinda, Taneea, Mike, and @ignaciots for your awesome contributions these past few months. They’re what keep OpenFarm moving along.

Are you interested in helping out with OpenFarm? Join us on Slack to talk about how you can help:

Welcome Team Twitches!

We’d like to extend a warm welcome to our two newest team members here at OpenFarm: Taneea and Vrinda (Team Twitches) from New Delhi, India! These women will be joining our team as part of the Rails Girls Summer of Code program which aims to bring more women into open-source software projects. Taneea and Vrinda will primarily be helping to build Guide Creation Flow V2, and will work closely with Rory, Simon, and their RGSoC mentors to hone their software development skills. Its going to be a fun Summer full of learning and progress here at OpenFarm.

Interested in getting involved? We’re always open to new contributions from software devs, designers, content creators and more! Just drop in to our Slack chatroom and say hi!

Open Crop Icons

Last year we put out a call for designers to help us create public domain crop icons that could be used across different applications via our API. A couple of designers have responded and in the last two weeks there’s been some great activity in our open-crop-icons repository. We already have a few icons that are finished including pumpkin and corn, some excellent conversation about style guides and inspiration, and a list of common crops that we would like to get designed (with bonus tracker tags to keep track of where progress on each crop icon is taking place).



Got any other crops you think should be in the list? Join the conversation on GitHub, we’d love to have your help!

A New Year, a New Dev Update

Lots of members of the Open Farm team have been very busy over the past few months, but we’ve still consistently found time to contribute to the platform.

Just a reminder, if you’re interested in joining in the efforts, talk to us on Slack or poke around the code and software on GitHub.

And now, on to what we’ve been working on!


The most important thing we’ve been working on is getting OpenFarm running on a Vagrant virtual machine. What this means is pretty simple, getting it set up right turned out not to be.

Why are we doing this? When you’re working on a  team (like the people working on OpenFarm are) that brings their own computers and are spread all over the world, one of the problems you will face is that not everyone’s computer runs the same software in the same way. A Windows computer is quite different from a Mac, which is again different from a Linux computer. To make it worse, a Windows 7 computer is different from a Windows 8 computer. And a Windows 7 Dell computer is still different from a Windows 7 HP computer. The software you install on one computer will run differently on other computers. This makes installing a complicated program like OpenFarm a bit of a pain if you want to work on the underlying code. In our Slack conversations it’s the one thing that turns keen volunteers away from working on OpenFarm.

So, what do you do? You work with this wonderful piece of software called Vagrant. Vagrant works together with Virtual Box to create a “virtual” computer that runs on your computer. This way, you can guarantee that all of the environments that all of your programmers are working in are the same. For newcomers eager to help out, the barrier of entry will become a lot lower too: they just have to install Vagrant and Virtual Box – software that works well on a lot of systems – download the OpenFarm code, and then just run one command on your command line.

So we’ve spent a couple of days trying to get a Vagrant installation up and running. We’ve tested it on a couple of systems, but still need to test it on a few more to make sure that it’s foolproof. If you’re interested in helping us out with this, get in touch!


Creating guides has been a bit of a pain point for a while. The process was overly complex and half of the things didn’t even save! We’ve been working on making the software that does all of this more transparent to us (which makes it easier to work with) and to you. We are redesigning the guide creation flow, but also by breaking out the guide creation and editing views. Our editing is more limited than it used to be but while we build out the editing functionality, you won’t lose information you’ve already added in the past.

We’d love it if you gave it a go.

Looking for an example guide? Check out this Passion Fruit guide from our founder, Rory.


We’ve started a discussion about externalizing the crops that we use within openfarm – to simplify the guide creation project (what we see as being the core functionality of openfarm). That conversation is taking place in the crops issues, and we’d love to hear your thoughts. We’ve also had some wonderful designers designing beautiful crop icons to use in OpenFarm, FarmBot, Hortomatic, and FarmOS. Have a look at those icons being developed in the open-crop-icons repository.

We’re going to plug away at the above things. We’ll make an announcement when Vagrant is working, and when we have some beautiful guides to showcase. If you’ve been saving up a how-to on growing a certain plant – passion fruit? orange? dragon fruit? – with some cool tips – on a balcony? hydroponically? on stilts? in a pyramid? – let us know! We’d love to accomadate and test the process of adding the guide with you.

Leave a comment below, talk to us on Slack, or poke around the code and software on GitHub.

Call for Designers!

OpenFarm is partnering with The FarmBot Project and Hortomatic to create a set of crop icons that are open-source and usable across the web for a variety of projects. We’ll be hosting these icons on OpenFarm and making them available to anyone via the OpenFarm website and our API.

But before that can happen, we need to actually create these icons, and that’s where you come in! We’re putting out a call for designers to create beautiful .SVG icons of crops with us. If you are interested in helping out, join the conversation on GitHub and/or email We look forward to working with you!

Taking a Stance: Our Content Policies

Since embarking on the OpenFarm project we’ve heard one question asked repeatedly: Will OpenFarm as an organization take any sort of ‘stance’ on what content is allowed to be posted? After discussing this question among our core team for a while, we have come up with a few ideas that we feel good about and want to share with you, our community.

Continue reading Taking a Stance: Our Content Policies

Event Planning

As a part of our Community Development plan we are hosting a variety of community events. We want to reach out to the communities of people growing food. We want to know who they are, what they need and how an online platform like this can help them. We also want to reach out to tell them about us, our project, and what we need from other people.  I personally believe, and have seen in past work with community organizations, that mutual aid is essential when we start proposing new frameworks, new strategies and new ways of working together. Community development is about relationships.

I organized two events in my home city Montreal, QC. Before creating these events I asked myself:

Why Should an online site host real life events?

And what kind of events should they be?

What will OpenFarm get out of these events?

What are the goals?

How will I try to achieve them through this event?

How will I measure success?

Continue reading Event Planning

Bridging Analogies

I have come to see my job at OpenFarm as a kind of bridge between earthy garden farming communities, and the geeky online community that created OpenFarm. It has been really interesting for me to see the fundamental parallels between the two worlds, seemingly so far a part. And on an introspective level, to see my core values and beliefs echoed in two worlds that I exist in. I haven’t programmed anything since 2003 when I took and HTML class and learned how to make little images move around. It was fun. But I have a little geek in me and I studied linguistics science in my undergrad, which is like reverse programming. I also come from a family of computer programmers, geeks and engineers, so those occupations aren’t a distant reality.

Earthy-wise, I have been digging deep into the worlds of urban gardening and permaculture for a couple years now. I like permaculture because it is a very analytical, full picture approach to gardening and farming. In order to maximize your garden you have to observe and understand the dynamics of the garden system, the inputs, the feedbacks, the responses and the outputs. As I learn more about the OpenSource coding community, their work, their dynamics, their creations, I have seen a lot of parallels with permaculture.

Flowers for example. In a monoculture approach to growing food there is no need for flowers. they are weeds, obstacles, they are in the way. But in a sustainable or better yet, regenerative approach they serve a purpose. They attract pollinators, they fix nitrogen, they feed nematodes, who knows… sometimes you have to wait to find out. The OpenSource community has flowers too. Odd little bits of code designed to do seemingly ‘valueless’ tasks, silly little strings of code written by the creator for nothing but pleasure, game, practice. But these little bits could be integrated into another longer paragraph and in that context they play an important role, and in another context could bring a different edge to the results. Can you see I am loving this jam?

Hosting a Workshop at the CSSC Convergence

10838215_10152841120148683_7691694612745659232_oOver the weekend I hosted a workshop at an event known as the convergence. The California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) hosts these biannual events at universities across the state. A convergence is an event for students who are passionate about and work in the three branches of sustainability; economics, equity, and ecology. It is a time for students to share their projects, ideas, knowledge, and inspiration with one another.

This quarter the convergence was held at LMU and the theme was “Strengthening Connections: Thriving Together”. They explained,

We are at the intersection of intertwining and complex social, environmental, and economic systems. By understanding how we shape these conditions we can explore new ideas and organizing models that disrupt and replace the status quo. This work will require that we cultivate strong mutualistic relationships with each other to ultimately ensure we collectively thrive and adapt to a changing planet.

Continue reading Hosting a Workshop at the CSSC Convergence