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Hacking The Farm Bill

Rebecca Klein wasn’t expecting a lot when she signed up to attend last week’s Farm Bill Hackathon. This public health expert from the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University had never heard of a hackathon–a gathering of computer programmers who lock themselves in a room to tackle epic projects with unrestricted creativity–until around two weeks before the event. While the idea of bringing together other sustainable food advocates with computer programmers interested in helping them build tools appealed to her, it also seemed a little ambitious.

The event, which took place last Saturday, was designed to encourage multiple teams of participants to take a project (infographics and online tools) from concept to execution in a single day. “It just seemed like too little time,” says Klein. “I’d never been to an event to tackle an issue where the attendees weren’t hand-selected in advance.” The results–an array of infographics, apps, and other tools made by over 120 people who attended either in person or via the web–surprised her. “The energy in the room was palpable and the power of bringing such diverse expertise into one room was inspiring. This one day planted a whole bunch of seeds for projects and ideas that would have never existed without coming together in that room (and via the web) for that concentrated time,” she says. Read more