Community Supported Agriculture on PEI

Had an excellent meeting with two different representatives from the province regarding the social networking plan for farmers. The upshot of it was that we’re going to give this a try. I’ll sketch out the plan as it stands right now and, after some time for feedback, will hopefully have things ready to get going mid-next week.

I don’t mean to be secretive, but I think we may be on to something here and don’t want to ruin it by talking out of turn. So far, I’m still working pro bono, and will advise folks if that stops and i have some kind of contract. Not that it should matter…

Phase 1
We’re going to be asking the people who are currently buying from farmers (or would like to start)to do two things. We’re going to ask them to

1. register over at http://peicsa.ca (I’ll be posting instructions on how to do this next week… stay tuned)

and then we’re going to ask them to

2. contribute their story buying locally here on the island. (I’ll be posting instructions on how to do this next week… stay tuned)

Pictures are good, video is good, but any story that talks about who where the farmer was, what the experience was like, what it tasted like… anything. We’re trying to accomplish three things.

it’s normal, it’s easy and it’s good to buy local

I want a list of people who are interested in finding out where the good local food is WHEN it is ready. Once the system is ready you’ll be able to either get ALL messages of ‘food is ready to come be picked up, bought or picked’ or be able to subscribe to certain kinds of food or certain producers.

I also want to get a group of people together to prove to the local farmers that we are here. So far, the people I’ve talked to think this is a really exciting idea. I’d like to get those people together so that when i meet with farmers i can say “look, these people want your product, and they want to buy locally”.

Phase 2
I’m hoping to approach the fall season farmers (lets say apple or pumpkin) as a test case for trying out the system. We would have the apple farmers, for instance, posting when different apples were ready and when picking was ready to start. Nice simple test case, and hopefully will generate more good news stories as like phase 1. I’m particularly interested in trying to track connections between people being notified and actually going to the farms.

Phase 3
Education and role out. With the lessons learned from our first two phases, i’d like to develop a training system to get farmers up to speed (even though i hope to be able to provide a pretty simple system, at this point i’m willing to sacrifice some functionality for simplicity) There are a number of people making positive investment noises. There are connections to rural development, the local tech community, training and the agriculture communities…. All VERY early days at this point, but i’ve heard very few negative noises at this point.

Notes
I’d originally intended to try and torture farmers to get involved now, but it was suggested (and i should have thought of this) that it’s not really fair for them to use their VERY limited time this time of the season for this when we can’t guarantee immediate results. That doesn’t mean we don’t want you if you are a farmer. You can leave a message here or send me an email through the email button on the top right hand corner of this page if you are interested in being more involved sooner.

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9 thoughts on “Community Supported Agriculture on PEI

  1. Wow, Dave, this is one great idea. We have lots of CSA activity in Vermont, and some good support from our state and farm groups, including NOFA, but nothing of this sort exactly. The bread CSA I belong to in Vermont posts every Monday what’s available that week and we order online. But it’s on his site, not a community site. I would love to go to one place to find out who has what when.

    I am also working in a small town in Idaho which is trying to find ways for local farmers to market their wares in town, and for would-be buyers to locate farms that will sell them eggs, greens, chickens, etc. So far they are putting together an online directory of farms and products and contact info. I plan to show them this plan as an example of a next step.

    The incorporation of storytelling is brilliant–it is just what I am trying to do in my work with rural communities this year.
    One of my favorite examples of farmer/food/consumer storytelling is going on in NYC, where a woman who loves farmers markets, gets up every morning and heads out to the markets and blogs immediately (in the field?) about what is fresh, new, particularly interesting as well as what’s available. Apparently many chefs in the city depend on her blog to decide on their daily specials, and they will send out their staff to get that essential something that is perfect that day. Pretty fabulous use of social media, but dependent on a single person.

    I will follow along from down south here, hoping you are wildly successful!

  2. Hi barbara,

    so far so good. Funny how a simple conversation about being ‘postdigital’ can clarify your thinking so much.

    I think your story about the woman who blogs consistently about ‘what’s in the field’ is a very valuable one. I’ve had a few conversations with people interested in doing some of this, and using that story as a model might just do the trick to frame the conversation.

    thanks for the happy wishes :)

  3. A recommendation — some farmers are technophobic (which I understand — technology scares me sometimes too). For those farmers who are not on-board with the project, can we consider an Adopt-a-Farmer program? What I mean is, if we know a farmer who is willing to do farm-gate sales but doesn’t know how/is unable to update the website, could us, more tech savvy and less food making savvy folk, take a farmer (or 3) and be their entry point into the program?

    One last recommendation — Google Maps. Being new to the Island I am still trying to orient distances. I might find a farm with delicious apples ready but if it is up in Tignish I’m likely not going to make the drive after work to grab some.

    Fabulous idea –

  4. Oh, one more idea. Twitter updates. Was at Tea Hill (Wood’s) last night to get strawberries. She said she’d had close to 500 people through that day and that there would be no berries of any worth until Monday. Would have loved to have tweeted that one out.

    Now that I think about it — I wonder how the berries were today?

  5. Yup. Working on it. peicsa is already a twitter account. They’ll be flowing out there soon. Was working on the gmap layer today. It’s pretty much ready to go now, but will be the first version (look prettier, bit more funcationality) by wed.

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