This project is all about providing our friends, Joan and Drew Norman, owners of One Straw Farm, the largest organic farm in Maryland, with a new set of tools. Their farm is the basis of a large, complex operation, especially by sustainable farming standards. They work very hard. They are smart business people. They genuinely care about the health of the land they cultivate and the surrounding woodlands. The beautiful, healthy foods they grow feed over 10,000 people across Central Maryland. But they are struggling with their own success. Theirs is an information challenge.
This information involves the many details associated with planning, planting, growing, harvesting, marketing, and selling crops. Like most farmers, they must deal with stringent regulatory and compliance issues. Most of this data needs to be captured, modified or acted upon outdoors. Not in their small office in front of a desktop. Not in a coffee shop on a laptop. But outdoors among the crops. In the tractor on the way to the fields. At the stands with their customers at the farmers’ markets. Mobile first is what farmers need.
They also struggle to track their products as soon as they leave the field and enter the packing shed or are trucked off to the farmers’ market. Theirs is a business built around timely deliveries to many locations. There are hundreds of details that can make the difference between a profit and a loss depending upon how well they are tracked.
And while Joan and Drew have built an incredibly loyal set of customers, they and their customers would like a better way to connect and exchange information. They want to provide their customers with a platform for trading recipes, swapping produce, and meeting others in their CSA. The best way to do this is via mobile technology.
We want to design and build two mobile applications for Joan and Drew: One to meet the needs of planning and running the farm. The second application will allow them to continue to build better relationships with their customers. Leveraging social media tools and mobile technology, their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) customers will be able to find out what produce they’re getting each week, share recipes, and meet other CSA customers, building a sense of community around locally produced food.
Will and I will be using our own skills to build these apps: Will has years of experience as a product manager and Callie has extensive experience designing user interfaces for mobile applications. Callie and her team of students have also completed the bulk of design research around this project, conducting user interviews, creating the basic information architecture, and exploring interaction models and visual design via simple prototypes.
We also both have basic front-end coding skills and will be getting our hands dirty in that vein to make this happen, but we really need a seasoned database and iOS developer to realize our creative vision. With your help as a Kickstarter contributor to our project, we will hire a developer to engineer these apps for Joan and Drew. If successful, we can see these apps being used by other sustainable farmers, helping to make their operations more efficient and profitable.
It can be argued that of all industries, global agriculture has the greatest health and environmental impact. The associated challenges are very hard to address on a global scale, but sustainable farming is all about rethinking our food system on a local level (as this wonderful article attests). That means Drew and Joan, with Kickstarter’s help, can have an even greater impact in their community if they have better, easily-accessible information. Support a project that already has a solid foundation: Joan, Drew, and One Straw Farm. Help us help them evolve the new model of agriculture.
And special thanks to The Noun Project for the iconography used in the branding of this project; to Callie's design students (Abby Cook, Katelyn DeLacerda, Iris Kwok, Valerie Lemire, Michelle Martir, Nico Nittoli, and Kaitlin Shields) whose enthusiasm, hard work, and intellectual curiosity were instrumental in defining this project; to Denzel Mitchell of Five Seeds Farm, Zach and Georgia Lester of Tree and Leaf Farm, and Dave and Lydia Liker of Gorman Road Farm, all of whom patiently answered our questions about sustainable farming and gave us feedback on our idea; to Jen Tuohy who generously provided her unfettered scrum and development advice; and to John Foster of Mingodale Farm from whom we buy delicious eggs, honey, and produce when we run our Weimaraners, Oslo + Mies, at Pretty Boy Dam and whose tractor and dog footage made the perfect ending shot for our video.
For practical reasons, we started this project by designing for the iPhone. We will attempt to get a sense of which platform is more common among Drew and Joan’s customers and design the beta for that, then follow with development for other platforms.
Certain farmers other than Drew and Joan have provided us with valuable input on this project. Our plan is to share the apps with them initially at no charge so we can get broader feedback. Any long-term business model would involve some sort of charge for the use of apps by farmers, but the consumer app would probably be included in the price of your CSA.
For the Kickstarter effort, we are simply trying to raise the funds to build a couple of mobile apps for our friends, Joan and Drew Norman. Once we complete the project, we hope to build on what we have learned and launch a for-profit business built around information tools for sustainable farming.
If our project meets its goal of $30,000 by August 10, Kickstarter will debit your donation from the credit card linked to your Kickstarter account. If we do not meet our goal, no money is transferred.
This will depend on which platform we design for first. Open source is a great idea, and one that we will definitely explore once we form a development partnership and start on that phase of the project.
Rainmaker. Rewards #1, #2, and #4, plus Callie or Will flying to your house preparing a custom meal at your house for 6 people using locally-sourced, sustainable ingredients (in the summer, when the bounty's at its peak!).