Farm Hack

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= a network for sharing open source know-how amongst DIY agricultural tech innovators ; " a farmer-driven community to develop, document and build tools for resilient agriculture"


"Farm Hack is first and foremost a community of peer production and open-source exchange, better conceived of as an association of collaborators than a traditional non-profit organization." [1]



"FarmHack is a network for sharing open source know-how amongst the distributed fringe of DIY agricultural tech aficionados and innovators.

In the same vein as Appropedia or Open Source Ecology, a collaborative digital knowledge-base facilitates the harvest of crowd wisdom to address challenges and inefficiencies in modern ecological (and economical) farm operation.

It is a project of Young Farmers Coalition and somewhat angled to the exuberant and tech-savvy eco-preneurial demographic, but inclusive and supportive of all open earthy inhabitants.

A primary focus of the organization is toward intensive development meet-ups, teach-ins, and hackathons, in person, on the farm." (

2. From their culture page:

"Farm Hack is a community of collaborators interested in developing and sharing open-source tools for a resilient agriculture. We exist as a platform for community-based sharing and collaborative research. Individuals and organizations, non-profits and businesses alike are invited to participate.

Our community is comprised of not only farmers but those with common interests: engineers, roboticists, designers, architects, fabricators, tinkerers, programmers, hackers. You don't have to own a farm or have specialized skills to join Farm Hack. Farm Hack is a participatory and cumulative project that is as strong as we make it together.

This same community sometimes assembles offline in the form of meet-ups, workshops, and build events. (Link to Calendar). We organize our work through Weekly Organizer's Calls (link to Community Structure Page).

Farm Hack is an independent 501c3 and was incubated and launched by NYFC(link is external) and the Greenhorns. Special thanks to our our founding members and partners. See an infographic of our organizational structure here (link to organizational structure page).

Farm Hack aims to nurture the development, documentation, and manufacture of farm tools for resilient agriculture. We also seek to build a community of collaboration with like-minded organizations. Farm Hack lights the spark for a collaborative, self-governing community that builds its own capacity and content, rather than following a traditional cycle of raising money to fund top-down knowledge generation and guidebook writing.

We believe that greater knowledge sharing will lead to better tools, skills and systems to build successful, resilient farms. Open-source seeds, breeds and technology are the fastest way to accelerate innovation and adaptation, and ensure an equitable, diverse agricultural landscape.

By documenting, sharing and improving farm tools, we can improve the productivity and viability of sustainable farming and local manufacturing. The result will be healthy land, abundant food, successful farm businesses and invigorated local economies." (

3. Dorn Cox:

"In 2011, a community of farmers, designers, developers, engineers, architects, roboticists, and open source thinkers came together in Boston, Massachusetts to explore a simple yet radical idea – that great improvements in agriculture could be achieved by reducing barriers to knowledge exchange. They were convinced that transforming agricultural technology into a commons would result in a more adaptive, open and resilient food system, one that would reflect the values not just of the grower but of the larger community as well. The path toward a more distributed and just agricultural and economic system, this gathering of people concluded, would come into being through the collective development of new working prototypes and universal access to a constantly improving repository of best ideas and practices.

Thus began Farm Hack, an ambitious volunteer project that brought together

the seemingly disparate cultures of technologists and agrarians. The start of Farm Hack

came with an offer from M.I.T. to host a teaching event that could connect engineers with

farmers’ needs. The National Young Farmers Coalition had just started a blog called “Farm

Hack” and launched the first program, followed closely by more events held in partnership

with GreenStart and Greenhorns agrarian networks and joined by maker/hacker networks.

The Farm Hack community quickly expanded through online and in-person social

networks across the east and west coasts of North America. Within three years, it became

a user-driven, collaborative community of ideas and tools with many thousands of active

participants. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from every continent in the world were

soon contributing tens of thousands of hours to the platform. Farm Hack has become

a rapidly growing repository of agricultural knowledge, containing scores of open source

designs and documentation for farming technologies and practices. In effect, Farm Hack is

an emergent, networked culture of collaborative problem-solving.

Hacking has been defined as the art of coming up with clever solutions to tricky

problems by modifying something in extraordinary ways to make it more useful. Hacking

also means rejecting the norms of consumer culture, and imagining ways to modify,

improvise, and create new, accessible, custom solutions for particular problems. Not

surprisingly, both hacker and maker culture are a natural fit for the sustainable agricultural

movement. Both cultures formed in response to ongoing, hegemonic attempts to control

users’ access to basic technologies and other resources. Both arose from a realization that

open access to knowledge is the best strategy to counter dominant industry interests. This

has long been an inherent part of agriculture in general, and a critical part of sustainable

agriculture in particular. On most farms, identifying a problem, thinking of a solution, testing

that solution and assessing its efficacy while thinking of the next iteration, is a daily practice.

Within its first year, the Farm Hack website featured documentation for over 100

innovative agricultural tools. They ranged from manufacturing instructions for newly created

farm-built hardware such as garlic planters, to the remanufacturing of an “extinct” farm-scale

oat huller. The community contributed designs for greenhouse automation and sensor networks

and business models for organic egg enterprises.

The power of open source exchange is illustrated by the quick pace and diversity of

modifications and improvements made to tools on Farm Hack. One of the first greenhouse

monitoring projects was turned into an electric-fence alert system, which quickly evolved into

an automation and data logging system, which then spun into businesses selling kits. An organic

no-till roller made open source by the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania was quickly modified in

New Hampshire, then Quebec, and then France and Germany; the latest versions being built in

New York State are based on German and French improvements made six months earlier. In

this production model, inventors increasingly may not be able to predict the ultimate use of

their tools, as the ultimate use will be collaborative and emergent.

Despite being an all-volunteer organization, operating without a budget until 2014, Farm

Hack partnered with dozens of organizations, universities, open source and maker communities

in the US and Europe to expand the network. In addition to providing an online forum and

repository for the community’s knowledge and tools, Farm Hack has hosted in-person and

online events to document and improve tools, foster sharing and build skills. In these events,

the group carries on the agrarian club tradition of mixing participatory education with lots of

good eating, drinking and socializing.

With growth of the community came greater financial burdens of hosting and guiding

the conversations and idea exchanges. The community also needed to evolve in its role from

organizing and planning, to facilitating, guiding and recruiting new contributors. Initially funding

to support these needs came indirectly through the founding partner organization budgets

supplemented by contributions from community volunteers. It was three years before the first

general grant support was secured. A university extension program wrote a grant on behalf

of Farm Hack to document, measure and extend the reach of USDA Sustainable Agriculture

Research and Education (SARE) funded projects.

To manage the challenges of growth and expansion in its third year, the Farm Hack

network adopted a set of ten principles; participants wanted to maintain the representative

open agrarian values of the network as they interacted with established power structures.

The collaborative and flexible structure of the organization, and rapidly evolving tools for

remote collaboration, became important ways for the organization to evolve while remaining

representative and emergent. For example, a collaborative tool currently in development, by

the community and for the community, is a best practices template for open source project

contracting to help navigate the tension of having paid and volunteer efforts working side by

side. The template is exploring the awarding of bounties and other rewards for commercial

contracts, special recognition to volunteer efforts, and pooled payments or retainers on a

project-by-project basis for participants."

(Source: Article: Farm Hack: A Commons for Agricultural Innovation. By Dorn Cox)


" Farm Hack, an online community of farmers, designers, developers, and engineers “helping our community of farmers to be better inventors, developing tools that fit the scale and their ethics of our sustainable family farms.”

“Knowledge wants to be free,” Cox told me.

So Farm Hack is setting it free. Together, members are building an open-source library of farming tools and knowledge. They hack together solutions that work for them. Projects range from the classically low-tech (a farm bicycle that lets users pick ground crops like strawberries without destroying their backs) to the decidedly tech-savvy (a remote-controlled, Arduino-powered compost monitor).

“The main thing, from a hacker’s perspective, is that we’re not dependent on something to create the tools for us,” Cox explained. “We are actually adapting and taking ownership.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to modifying existing equipment—like Dave’s tractor—it’s that same idea of ownership that’s most contested. Dave paid for the tractor; he owns what’s tangible: the wheels, the metal chassis, the gears and pistons in the engine. But John Deere owns everything else: the programming that propels the tractor, the software that calibrates the engine, the information necessary to fix it. So, who really owns that tractor?

Even if he could, would it be legal for Dave to fix his machine? Right now, we don’t know; and that ambiguity is disturbing. So, we’re trying to find the answer. In conjunction with USC and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, we’ve asked for a DMCA exemption for farmers who want to modify and repair their equipment. We’ll find out if it’s legal for farmers to tinker with their own equipment when the Copyright Office reviews the latest round of exemptions.

Until then, Dave’s tractor remains a locked box—and neither Dave nor I are allowed to pry it open." (


Outcomes of a first workshop:

'Some outcomes: SMS-enabled Arduino greenhouse monitor, mechanical improvements to the root vegetable washer based on cumulative user feedback, scoping for a Zigbee mesh GPS tracking system on farm assets, and notes on effective workspace setup. Following wrap up presentations, emphasis was again placed on documenting to the wiki and continuing the conversation online and in-lab. What was the highest value of this co-location and face-time? Bonding for future collaboration and mutual resourcing...harnessing the greater-sum motivation of teams...meshing diverse work styles and perspectives...seeing and hearing success stories from ag-improv veterans...evaluation of proposals and results by trusted peers...enjoying excellent complementary repast...feeling at home and at one in “serious play” on the farm." (

More Information

"Documentation is our bedrock. Without it, Farm Hack wouldn’t exist. Knowledge sharing begins with the creation and dissemination of documentation. That’s why it’s so important to develop educational resources that empower our community members and help them produce high-quality documentation. That’s the main objective of this resource: to offer a how-to guide by illustrating the documentation process in the context of different sorts of tools and environments, including farms, events, and formal education.

Check out the Farm Hack Method Version .01 via