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FarmHack Descends on Providence, Rhode Island: Agricultu...

FarmHack Descends on Providence, Rhode Island: Agriculture Meets Design

In Providence, Rhode Island, farmers huddled up alongside students, scribbling on Post-it notes, and throwing around phrases. Efficiency. Integrated design. Awareness. The event was FarmHack, a collaborative design charrette and open-source sharing platform started by the National Young Farmers’ Coalition. The event’s aim, while simple, has big goals – what happens when you bring together

Providence farmer discusses land use and agriculture at a FarmHack design charrette

In Providence, Rhode Island, farmers huddled up alongside students, scribbling on Post-it notes, and throwing around phrases. Efficiency. Integrated design. Awareness.

The event was FarmHack, a collaborative design charrette and open-source sharing platform started by the National Young Farmers’ Coalition. The event’s aim, while simple, has big goals – what happens when you bring together farmers and their non-farming allies, including engineers, students, and architects? Hopefully good design addressing the growing needs of small-scale food producers working to create sustainable and efficient farms.

Design thinking has become an important consideration for farmers in light of extreme weather events, limited agricultural land, and growing demand for locally produced food. In the FarmHack model, multidisciplinary teams work together to draft designs, allowing for bottom-up approaches and solutions driven by the experiences and needs of farmers and consumers.

The event, at Rhode Island School of Design, spanned the weekend of March 10-11, 2012 and included breakout groups, tours of urban farms, and preliminary design sessions. Some farms demonstrated their own man-made tools, including Red Planet’s bicycle-powered root washer. Back in the meeting rooms, groups sketched out inventions, including a mobile produce washing station, collapsible compost sifting tray, and a plan to bulk up the FarmHack platform for research and development, branding, and fundraising.

Red Planet's root washer design demonstration

Most of these inventions will eventually make their way onto the FarmHack website, an open-source sharing platform and social network. Ideas from FarmHack events are not precious or hidden away – they are meant to proliferate and help the network of small-scale food producers. To get a taste of what’s possible, check out the weekend’s demonstration of the bike-powered root washer.

What do you think?  Is FarmHack an effective approach to address small-scale agriculture’s current design challenges?

Credits: Images and data all linked to sources.

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Lillian Mathews graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Environmental Studies (Honors) and a focus on Food Systems and Urban Sustainability. She has designed and implemented an arts-based gardening site at a neighborhood center in Providence, ...

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