OpenFarm launched to the public on January 18th of this year – just about 6 months ago. In the time since launching we’ve seen some incredible progress. In this blog post we’ll look at where we’ve come and where we want to go next.
Over 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.
I spent one hour listening to a talk about Ayurvedic and macrobiotic food movements. Most of the time I didn’t feel like the talk was directly relevant to OpenFarm. In fact, much of it seemed like playful banter and choir preaching. I came to this talk expecting to meet up with an ally who was going to introduce me to a few Cal Poly students. These were students who would potentially be interested in shadowing community members. In my mind they would be the first students to pilot our shadow program, and would glean information from local gardeners and create guides from what they learned. They didn’t show up, however, and my ally said they may not have been quite as interested as she had been led to believe.
So I’m sitting at this talk, hosted by the local seed savers organization, feeling like I’m wasting my time. I didn’t get the tangible outcome I was hoping for (student commitment to join the program) and I’m listening to someone who doesn’t even grow plants. I stuck around for thirty minutes to see if the students would show up, and when realizing they were not going to I contemplated cutting my losses and leaving. But then I realized I would have nothing to show for my efforts. What would I have learned or gained?! These are the questions I often find myself asking as I become accustomed to documenting my successes and challenges. Continue reading Making Wins
OpenFarm is all about community. It is a place where individuals and groups of people come together to share their knowledge in the commons, learn, and connect. When thinking about the people of OpenFarm and how they interact with the website and the rest of the community, we found that the traditional web terminology of users didn’t quite capture everything that these people are. Sure, people are users of OpenFarm the website, but they’re so much more than that. They’re also sharers of wisdom, learners, editors of Crops, creators of Guides, friends of others, and at the core of it all: members of the OpenFarm community. So today we’re announcing that OpenFarm is now a community of Members, not users. Here a few specific reasons why we like the change:
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.
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
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
OpenFarm is excited to bring aboard two Community Developers: Kat Ying and Kevin Bertolero. Kat and Kevin will focus on developing OpenFarm’s community in all respects: on the OpenFarm site, on social media platforms, and in their respective local communities and professional networks. Their goals and responsibilities are many, but here is a highlight of a few of them:
- Build relationships between OpenFarm and other organizations and individuals in the context of content creation, organizational capacity building, fundraising, and development resources
- Maintain and spark positive discussion about OpenFarm around the web
- Build feedback loops between users of OpenFarm and the organization to inform our development team of where to go next
- Host in-person content creation and site feedback meetups to strengthen local community around OpenFarm and bolster the site’s content
Cal Poly Senior Project team here:
When we started our journey with OpenFarm we first asked ourselves, “What is our customer segment?”, “Who are we bringing this product to, and why is this website valuable to them?’”
We followed up this question by sending out a survey to all members of the Kickstarter campaign to try and see who supported the idea and identify characteristics of that culture. We asked many questions, such as “What about OpenFarm are you most excited about?” and “Would you be available for a followup interview?”, both of which we got fantastic answers for from the over 400 respondents! Yet, of all the information we gathered from this survey, we found the most significant pieces of information on these two graphs. (click them to enlarge) Continue reading Customer Development
This is the Entrepreneurship Senior Project Team from Cal Poly. Our team in Fall quarter was comprised of four individuals: Christian Renfro, Emily Plummer, Jake Wing, and Ally Woods. We joined the OpenFarm team in September and have had an awesome journey with such a fantastic and positive group of people. When we first met Rory he presented us with the main question: “How do we keep the lights on for OpenFarm?” “What is a sustainable revenue model that works with the culture we are trying to create?” It was with this question that we realized we had a lot of learning to do. About gardening, OpenFarm, the people who value it and the culture that we are trying to foster through being open source.
There are a few things we do as Entrepreneurs at Cal Poly, from Identifying our “Customer Segment” and “Value Propositions” to identifying a scalable revenue stream, and so on. Essentially all aspects of a startup merge into something we call the business model canvas- what we were on a mission to define. Here is an example:
So, 3, 2, 1, and we’re off! But.. where do we start? Well, we had to take 2 steps back in order to take any steps forward as a team. So we started working on the basics. Continue reading Cal Poly Senior Project Team