Folks Gotta Eat

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The purpose of Folks Gotta Eat is to filter and curate stories, articles, projects and policies related to food security. Because the issues are complex, and Folks Gotta Eat...

Open Data in agriculture

| August 14, 2010

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Chiot's Run

Thanks to the fabulous Mark Kuznicki, I just finished reading a piece on Food+Tech Connect about Open Data in agriculture. If you're not yet familiar with the Open Everything movement, don't feel bad. You probably understand it and agree with it inherently, as the ideas just make sense.

It means just what it sounds like: let's open our governments, education systems, the World Wide Web -- basically everything, and keep it open so that folks can make authentic contributions and build on the knowledge and wisdom of the larger community of contributers. The most common example used to help folks understand the Open philosophy is Wikipedia.

I'm fortunate to be close friends with (and be the partner of) many folks who are pioneers in the Open Everything conversation. I do have to confess, however, that sometimes it feels a tiny bit cultish, so to combat that feeling I get a little silly. When I'm cooking, I make internal jokes about the "Open Jar" movement. I imagine Open Jar Camp, bringing folks together to share ideas and strategies around getting the lids off tough-to-open jars. We'd discuss documentation and distribution methodologies. We'd bring in lunch catering from that amazing Afghan Women's Catering Group and encourage everyone to take home the leftovers to share with family. I giggle out loud and continue struggling to get the lid off my cashew butter. 

Back to the original discussion. Why Open Data in agriculture?

We need to build toward a high level of integration and openness in data in order to truly be stewards of the land and sustainable producers and consumers of agricultural products... At a time when food is becoming a political issue instead of being discussed as the fundamental need that it is, we must access competing data and analysis to inform the investment, innovation, and policy behind food production and consumption. To transform data into metrics that empower decision-making across the food system, we need to get a broad spectrum of actors in the sector to communicate and collaborate. Let this essay serve as a call for a networked food system that harnesses and applies robust information through data generation, database architecture, open research and collaboration, and agile, relevant metrics, in pursuit of more efficient, more sustainable, more productive food and farming.

I really appreciate the author's perspective. She exhibits great reverence for age, knowledge and wisdom in farming. In addition, she's also hip to the fact that as food systems are increasingly complex and politicized, we need to be more and more savvy and open about how we share knowledge and data. Enter the Open Everything movement. From jar lids to public spaces, Open Everything is having a real impact on how we engage communities, problems and opportunities, online and offline.

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