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GOOD Magazine is currently conducting  Ideas For Cities, a brainstorming feature that lets readers contribute ideas for improving their cities. Once submitted, the GOOD staff chooses the best idea of the day and posts it on their website. Of course, as an avid urbanist I felt compelled to submit my own idea.

My idea: digitally integrate Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) with web 2.0. My inspiration is drawn from Farmville, a Facebook application that lets users plant and monitor crops and livestock. If you are a Facebook user you likely know someone who uses this app and shares the results of that weeks crop with you. This idea should be extended to real-life CSAs and involve both the farmers and crop recipients.

Basically, a CSA farmer would have a network interface that CSA members could join. The farmer would have a list of crops that he/she grows and each CSA member would check off which crops they have signed up to receive. Weekly the farmer would send out progress updates on the crops (ie. “Beets are medium size and are looking extra red. This years crop is going to be tasty!”). Each user would then only receive updates on the crops they have checked off.

The purpose of this is to engage CSA members, who are largely urban dwellers, even more in the growing process of their food. Many CSA members join a CSA because the idea of local, fresh food is appealing. They may also join because they want to move away from the culture of corporate farming and imported food. By posting updates and status reports the farmer allows crop recipients to be even closer to the food than before. Suddenly, farming becomes very tangible.

The status update that CSA members receive would also be embedded with an RSS feed and a link, thus making it easy for members to spread the word on their crops. The network provides local farmers a chance at earned media and free press, just simply by providing members with accurate updates.

In reality, this idea has endless opportunities for growth and could help CSAs organize better, connect closer with their members and possibly even attract new members. Localism is a burgeoning way of living but its success depends on a critical mass of people adopting it. In the twenty-first century, the internet is the best way to reach many people at once and with a little personal touch and a word-of-mouth strategy, CSAs and localism may become widespread practice.

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Not only is shopping locally a good way to maintain local cultural quirks and idiosyncrasies, it also makes good economic sense. The more money in the community, the stronger, financially (at the very least) the community will be.

(image via PSFK via Local First)

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