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April 10, 2017

Postdoctoral Fellow, Geography and Environmental Science

As an organic farmer, I know that farmers are the original hackers. Organic farming is all about taking apart conventional tools and processes and remaking them to serve social and ecological goals. After decades of work in the very terrestrial space of ecological agriculture, I have turned my attention to how sustainable food movements are ‘hacking’ in online spaces.

I work with Alison Blay-Palmer at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems and with international food system scholars through the FLEdGE (Food Locally Embedded Globally Engaged) consortium. I study how sustainable food movements are co-constructing new online spaces and how the world of "digital food" is evolving.

In particular, I am interested in how commons-based peer production is being used to construct open-source digital software and platforms that offer new opportunities for local sustainable food initiatives and networks. Open Food Network (OFN) is a new example of such a commons. As described in my (first ever) video story, this is a global network of autonomous organizations working to build a tech commons of digital tools that help the sustainable food movement scale up for greater impact.

Inspired by the open seed and seed savers movement, I have been working to help launch OFN-Canada as a not-for-profit that helps sustainable food initiatives connect with these new open source tools. We are "code savers," using technology to turn the conventional food system on its head and give greater power to grassroots food initiatives and farms. I have been overwhelmed by the interest in this project from farms and food hubs as well as from other research communities. I hope my video inspires them to connect with me and join the project.

Theresa Schumilas works with Associate Professor Alison Blay-Palmer, CIGI Chair in Sustainable Food Systems and director of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Department of Geography and Environmental Science.

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