When the topic of the farm bill is raised, food/ag activists' eyes often glaze over; we know it’s important, we know we should care, but the farm bill is boring and intangible, and what can we really do about it anyway? So we tend to relegate farm bill advocacy efforts to the food movement’s policy wonks, tacitly conceding that the bill is waaaaaay too complicated for the rest of us to wrap our heads around.
But maybe the farm bill isn’t actually all that complicated. Maybe it just needs to be presented in a non-totally-insane/incomprehensible-technobabble sort of way. Maybe someone should do exactly this…
This Saturday (December 3), Food + Tech Connect and GoJee are hosting the Farm Bill Hackathon in New York City.* Organized as part of the International Open Data Hackathon, the event will bring together food/ag experts, technologists, designers, policy makers and data specialists to develop tools and visualizations that can be used to help better understand how the farm bill impacts our lives.
Throughout the day, event participants will engage in a sort of benevolent hacking, using publically available (but often complex, disparate and/or user-unfriendly) data to convey important information about the farm bill in a comprehensive and compelling manner. (To learn more about hacking for the greater good – and to read about some inspirational food-systems applications – see an outstanding post about last year’s Food + Tech Hackathon by Ecocentric’s resident technophile, Jamie Leo.)
Ultimately, the Hackathon will produce tools and graphics capable of demonstrating to the public that the farm bill affects what we eat, how it’s produced, how much it costs and how it’s distributed. In other words, it will show that we should all care about the farm bill – and should make sure our elected officials do, too. This is the sort of farm bill activism in which all members of the food movement can engage – not just the hardcore policy nerds.
Want to get involved? You can still register to attend the event in NYC (it’s free!!), or participate virtually (just visit the Farm Bill Hackathon Wiki and email beth[at]foodtechconnect.com to let the organizers know you'll be joining.) You can also suggest potential farm bill issues for the hackers to tackle – list your idea and its corresponding data on the Wiki under “Project Ideas.”
Curious about what the hackers will produce? Look for a follow-up post on Ecocentric after the event, or sign up for our newsletter to read our recap.
* Full disclosure: GRACE is a proud sponsor of the Farm Bill Hackathon! If you attend, keep an eye out for me and my colleagues; we'd love to meet you!