Open Food Source: From orphan to federation


Open Food Source: From orphan to federation

In the local food movement, open source principles are very much like the open pollinated seeds that farmers keep to grow next year’s crops. When farmers use their own seeds, they are in control of breeding and conserving for the future. In contrast, closed source and software as a service (SaaS) providers are more like the companies with patented seeds who exert control over farmers by requiring them to purchase new seeds each year, sometimes even controlling the sale of the harvested crops.

Open Food Source (OFS) might be the longest running open source food hub software available today.

Its story began in the winter of 2005, when I was attending a conference of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society. The president of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative presented a session about the Local Food Co-op (LFC) software that was being developed to manage online sales between their farmer and consumer members. As a project released under the GNU General Public License, the software was soon adopted by several forming cooperatives around the central United States, and later by many others.

Within a few years, as CIO of the Nebraska Food Cooperative, I found myself acting as the lead developer of the LFC software and supporting similar organizations in several other states. Since I first installed Slackware Linux in 1995, I have been an avid supporter of open source software, but I had never contributed to an open source project, let alone led one.

Much of my work on the software has been in a volunteer capacity, but over the years one cooperative or another was sometimes able to secure grant funding to help pay for LFC software developments. I would then post improved versions for download and upgrade the websites I was directly maintaining. As an open source and freely-available package, every hour spent improving the software generated significantly higher returns as it was leveraged into multiple organizations around the country, and eventually around the world. As with many jobs, however, there is a trade-off between just getting the job done and handling the organizational needs. While my time was occupied with adding new software features, which grants could fund, those same grants would not support the creation of a development community.

Read more via Open Food Source: From orphan to federation |

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