Hack your food system! A manifesto (ok, not really)

It’s been quite a while since I had a chance to put in a meaningful post her at RethinkAg. I’ve been busy “hacking” my food system! More about that is available here.

So what exactly does hacking mean? Hacking is a term that has been used to describe all sorts of online mischief, but the way I’ve been defining the term is:

Hack (v) – to find a tool, improve it, fix a problem, and tell people how you did it

I adopted the term because “innovation” implies a different approach than is most commonly used in local food systems. Hacking is to “inventing” and traditional “innovation” what turntablism is to classical composition. Hacking is a DIY approach of taking samples from different cultures, farms and anywhere else and mixing it up into something new that has been adapted for one’s own situation.

A glimpse of the beautiful and almost magical Homegrown City Farms. Photo Credit: Toriano Fredericks

Hacking is a very simple ethos: let’s make something happen. We don’t always have exactly the right tool and sometimes what we want to do is in a legally grey area. Prominent examples include farms like Homegrown City Farms and Darko Urban Farm that until recent moves by the city and county of Durham, NC were selling vegetables from their urban farm illegally. 

Hacking is impossible without exposure to lots of ideas. On the internet, this exposure is easy if you know where to look (*cough* Reddit *cough*). In farming systems and physical spaces, it can be harder to know where to look and that’s how #Trifoodhack was born. Trifoodhack is a bi-monthly meetup for farmers, local food activists, entrepreneurs and anyone else that wants to build a better food system.

The future of our society depends on people being able to replicate the best ideas and improve and modify ideas that don’t work.

Trifoodhack is an idea I’d been talking about for a long time after starting a meetup for local science bloggers, researchers and other enthusiasts called the #Triscitweetup in January 2012.

I finally met Tori Fredericks and mentioned the idea and he was like “well, what are you waiting for?”

“Someone else to help beat the drum,” I replied. These meetups take some energy to get started and I knew I was going to need help.

We started hammering out details and since Tori and I first met in early February, Trifoodhack has developed into a great forum for ideas to cross-pollinate. Our meetup earlier this week inspired a lot of people (read Tori’s thoughts and check out his photos here). The challenges we face seem immense at times, but sometimes all you need are a few friends and a new way to hack your system.


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