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 (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.

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.

An open letter to farmers wanting to sell me stuff grown on PEI

note after the fact: this exists. It is static, but contains lots of information.

My name is dave. If you are a farmer on this island, odds are I don’t know you. I’m the web projects lead at UPEI and a social media consultant in Charlottetown. I didn’t grow up on the island and, while i’ve been here 4 years I’ve still not done a particularly great job getting to know the people who grow food here on Prince Edward Island. (i grew up in norther new brunswick) I’ve bought fresh eggs from one farmer, been to an apple orchard a few times, and am currently in the process of trying to go out an strawberry pick. I have a share in a cow currently being raised by a friend in his yard in NS.

I want to have a connection to the food i eat. I want my kids to understand that food comes from somewhere, and really like the health, taste and environmental advantages of buying local food that grows here on the island. We called around today, after looking at a bunch of websites (and i talked to people at the farm fairs last year who assured me that there were “lots of opportunities” to buy fresh food, but had no system other than ‘call whozit who has lettuce early). Some people told us that strawberries picking was starting monday, some said later next week, some told us our information was outdated and one nice lady called us back today and said “we don’t even grow strawberries, i don’t know where you got that idea”.

This is not going to work. I need a simple, one stop place to go to get this information, and I need to not have to call twenty people to find strawberries that aren’t shipped in from who knows where. Same goes for everything else grown on the island. This is not very hard to do. You can do this. I can help, advise, or send you to others who can help you do this. Consider this as my commitment paid or unpaid to be part of a solution for this.

Here’s what i think we need for a Farm 2 Plate website. (in broad terms, think about a page like but for farming products on PEI)

  1. We need a website that you yourselves can update with times and products that are available. I currently have a few hundred people doing this at the university… you can learn how, and we can teach you how.
  2. We need a back up person committed to answering phone calls from people who are having trouble. Someone who will teach first but, most importantly, ensure that the information is posted.
  3. We need an automatic way of updating people from around the island when a new ‘availability’ has been posted. This is also not hard. People would be able to subscribe to this website like they would to a newspaper, except they would get the update by email or other means as soon as you put it on the website.
  4. People would need to accept that their product and the ‘client experience’ would be rated. Ratings are critical to success. We need to spread the good news and encourage others to do a little better.

There are a few technical details around this, we would need to decide what the ‘categories’ of food were, and how the content would get spread out. This is also not that difficult. It would require some cooperation, and someone in a position to make decisions, but it’s very easy to change this stuff on the fly. We could do it this way for this season and then talk about it over the winter when the timelines weren’t so short.

And that’s the thing. We could the earliest version of this running by next week. It would need to be worked on, adjusted and, if you’ll pardon the metaphor, weeded, but that’s not a problem either. It’s an organic process and there will be disagreements and frustrations, but i think this is important, and, as you will be in charge of your own content, you can make sure that things look the way you want them to.

I don’t know where we go from here. I would like to hear if you are interested, and how we can go about doing this. It may be that we talk to the government, or some other organization… i don’t know… but i do know that this is possible.

If you are out there and have done or are doing this… let me know about it. If i can help, great. If that help is just telling people about it… that’s great too.

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