The accelerating emergence of an Open Food Movement

Excerpted from Kirsten Larsen et al. who writes:

“A movement of practitioners is emerging who are applying Open Source philosophy to food systems work. Our goal in this article is to recognize the power of this fledgling movement and to highlight some of the people and organizations who are using Open Source for food.

For food systems work, Open Source means open ideas, knowledge, plans, documents, tools, code, data, and so on, all open for use and improvement by others. Instead of privatizing and patenting intellectual property, we’re sharing designs and building off each other’s innovations.

When source code is “open,” anyone can start where someone else left off. Any documented piece of knowledge can be reused and redirected to fit unique situations and local needs. It can be shared across the globe and implemented quickly and easily by local people and organizations working within their communities.

In the late 1990s, the software community popularized the term “open source” to denote “open code” which is available for use by all. The idea was powerful and gave rise to a vibrant Open Source software ecosystem. We all use products built on Open Source every day. Apache servers run the internet; Wikipedia has revolutionized how we seek and share information.

However, Open Source is a contemporary expression of an ancient human idea. We even have cultural institutions, rules, and norms centered around the exchange of genetic material. Agricultural fairs originated as forums for genetic code and breed exchange. What a shame that the norms have shifted to intellectual property, exclusive ownership, patents, widgets, and corporate control. Supporting openness demonstrates an understanding that together we are stronger.

On farms and in food businesses around the world, people are inventing creative solutions every day. As we rebuild the small farm economy and reintegrate agriculture as a central part of our lives, the tools we seek are often unavailable. For the past century, industrial designers and corporations focused on scaling up. Politicians and the agribusinesses executives espoused a “get big or get out” philosophy. However, the tools we need are appropriately scaled to suit our needs as regional producers feeding local communities.

In the spirit of Open Source, this co-authored post is our first step in starting to link up and cross-pollinate this work. The P2P Foundation has an “agrifood” repository in its vast library of resources. The Open Food Foundation, based in Melbourne, Australia, has the beginnings of a wiki compiling open food projects. Farm Hack and Open Source Ecology have growing databases of open tools.”

Check out the directory of initiatives here!

Source: This blog was written by Kirsten Larsen (Open Food Network), Daniel Grover (Farm Hack) and Tristan Copley-Smith (Open Source Beehives) – with some special assistance on open data from Alex Bayley (Growstuff).

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