NewsJanuary 25, 2019

The CommonsCall: A New Forum for Community Problem Solving

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As John Dewey, the great pragmatist and 20th century philosopher, writes: “education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” His sentiment of learning through living – learning through action, is core to our work here at Farm Commons.

Though Farm Commons was founded almost 7 years ago by powerhouse farm advocate and attorney Rachel Armstrong, our team has been and continues to work towards better understanding of the work that we do. This evolving understanding in turn evolves the way we approach our mission, being to empower farmers with the law to be more legally resilient.

So, what exactly is our work, you may be wondering?

Farm Commons is a non-profit organization that offers legal education services to farmers and farmer educators that empower farmers to learn the law in order cultivate legally resilient businesses.

Another way we think about our work is that we facilitate a learning structure through which farmers’ create legal solutions for themselves on matters including land access, sales contracts, food safety, and employment, in order to legally sustain and grow their businesses into the future.

We understand our work as facilitating community-centric action – being work for the community, guided by the community.

We recently learned from our friends at Public Lab that this community-centric work is part of a long tradition of “action research,” being a process of problem-solving conducted by and for those taking the action.

The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, aka the Public Lab, is a fellow non-profit organization that is steeped in action research - facilitating collaborative open source environmental research in the model known as Community Science. They support communities facing environmental justice issues through a DIY approach to environmental monitoring and advocacy.

One of Public Lab’s forums for community problem solving is through the OpenCall, a regularly scheduled call that serves as a conversational forum for peer-to-peer networking and problem solving.

We caught up with Public Lab co-founder Liz Barry about the OpenCall model, which is informing our communal development and outreach forward.

Opening this [OpenCall] space for questions to bubble up and people to realize that they share common concern is the start of “action research”. It’s another way to look at things for and by the community… by putting farmers at the center, beginning with their questions and then going out to engage experts as needed, is a general way of producing knowledge in a long tradition of “action research.”

In action research the people are in charge.” – Liz Barry, co-founder and director of community development at Public Lab

Inspired by Public Lab’s OpenCall forum, Farm Commons has launched our own call-in, the CommonsCall, for 2019 as a way for you, our community, to come together on a monthly basis every third Wednesday to engage in farm law problem solving together. 

Join us for our next CommonsCall on Wednesday February 20th, from 3-4pm EST. We’ll be talking all about food safety, and invite you to join us with your questions and ideas! Register to attend the next call here.


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