Innovative Impact Assessment of Farm and Food Innovations

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2015: $14,999.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Christopher Callahan
University of Vermont Extension

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, technical assistance

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will deliver an improved collective innovation, distribution & education, and impact assessment platform for sustainable farm and food innovations as a result of enhancements to the website. The website hosts more than 159 farm and food innovations including the results of many SARE funded projects in areas such as biofuels, planting and cultivation equipment, monitoring, and processing equipment.
    Farm Hack is an open source community for farm tool innovation. Since 2011, it has been effectively facilitating this community in person at hack events and online at The website is becoming the standard way to share open source design innovations among farmers and food businesses. As part of an overall website improvement activity the project team has identified evaluative functionality and methods as a priority with potential benefit to SARE, its stakeholders and grantees. By including improved functionality on such as metrics on tool views and downloads, discussion forums, and impact story capture this project will provide a platform for enhanced SARE project distribution, collective innovation and iterative enhancement, and evaluation of impact over a longer period than the traditional project life.
    This project aims to provide a perpetual home for SARE project outputs that will allow them to live, grow and improve in alignment with the open source philosophy shared by farmers, Farm Hack, SARE and other funding programs.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    The proposed solution is enhancement of the website to allow improved integration of SARE funded hardware and software innovation projects and others with the Farm Hack community design platform. The solution will include:
    1) Understanding the current status of SARE project result distribution and impact assessment: Engage with select SARE project PIs to understand what features and functionality would better help to disseminate their project results.
    2) Evaluating the Farm Hack user experience: Pursue user feedback relative to ease of posting tools and evaluation.
    3) Articulating an improvement plan: Based on #1 and #2, refine the following plan:
    a. Improved measures of site and tool traffic (page views, time on page, unique visits)
    b. Collaborative design enhancement (reviews, discussion forums)
    c. Rating and/or ranking of tools (like button, “I use this tool” button, 0-5 star ratings)
    d. Capture of use, revision and enhancement metrics (# of downloads, revision feedback / forking)
    e. Coordination of collaborative on-farm trials in multiple locations (geotagging, collaboration functionality)
    f. Impact assessment. We want to document testimonial impact of tools via story telling (hours labor saved, cost reduction, improved profitability, improved social sustainability, positive environmental impact).
    4) Implementing improvements as a web development project.
    5) Evaluating and distributing project results.


    DEFINITION / NEEDS ASSESSMENT PHASE: This stage of the project will include Stakeholder Outreach and Web Development Requirements Definition. Stakeholder outreach will be accomplished using existing Farm Hack networks and SARE networks to inform each about the project and its goals. At the same time the team will invite stakeholders to one of two live listening sessions to be held online in the month of May 2015 and will also invite stakeholders to participate in the needs assessment by less active means such as email communication, brief online surveys and discussion forums created on Farm Hack for the purpose. This time of year will be challenging to engage farmers in live sessions so both methods will be utilized. We will also develop a list of “select” SARE project PIs to contact by phone for direct interview about their experiences and what additional documentation and dissemination functionality would be helpful. The assessment methods will make use of open ended questions in order to facilitate experiential reflection and response on the part of the respondents. In the month of June, the team will consolidate the information gained from stakeholder outreach. This information will be compiled into an initial set of web development requirements based upon, but enhancing, those outlined in the “solutions” section above in order to form the detailed plan for the first implementation phase.

    IMPLEMENTATION PHASE 1: This stage of the project will leverage the stakeholder feedback and codified requirements derived from it to directly enhance the Farm Hack website to better accommodate the open source agricultural community of design. We estimate approximately 50% of the project budget will be utilized in this stage to hire web development specialists to implement the enhancements identified as appropriate for early stage adoption. This stage of the project will conclude in October 2015 with an interim launch and design review including an email blast and two webinars where project team members walk the audience through the design enhancements using sample SARE projects as case studies.

    EDUCATION / OUTREACH PHASE 1: The email blast and outreach webinars used to conclude the initial phase of implementation will also serve to initiate the second phase of implementation by reopening the question of opportunities for further development via stakeholder assessment. This will likely include a scope identified in the first stage of stakeholder assessment and that will be used to orient the audience and reinitiate the conversation. With a target time period of late Fall 2015, our hope is that this will enable more farmer stakeholders to take part in the process which will conclude in January 2016.

    IMPLEMENTATION PHASE 2: This second stage of active implementation will follow the second round of stakeholder engagement and needs assessment. The work will be based on the consolidated output of the first and second stages of stakeholder assessment and will likely include some of the enhancement tasks requiring more in-depth and multi-faceted work. As a result, this stage is less defined as we write this proposal. However, we propose reserving the approximate 50% balance of the proposed funding for this work. We anticipate some of this work to be conducted starting with the first stage of development, but receiving increased attention starting in November 2015 with an anticipated completion by April 2016.

    EDUCATION / OUTREACH PHASE 2: At the conclusion of the second stage of web development work, we will have a formal launch of the improved site in April 2016. An email blast and two webinars where project team members walk the audience through the design enhancements using sample SARE projects as case studies will again be utilized for outreach. The two year term of the project will allow for contemporary SARE PIs to utilize the enhanced site to highlight their projects and allow our team to have timely feedback on our work.

    REPORTING AND WRAPUP: This stage of the project will allow time for reflection on the process, the results of the work and their impact. We plan to document the project both using the standard SARE reporting methodology and framework according to standard reporting timelines as well as a providing a dedicated page on to provide real-time tracking of progress following open source design philosophy.


    We propose a 24 month project term which will be roughly split into phases of needs assessment, a first implementation phase and a final implementation phase to allow for focused project management of early and more obvious website enhancements in parallel with needs assessment and later, more involved enhancements separately in the second phase.

    April 2015 - Grant Award / Project Kick-Off Meeting

    May-July 2015 – Stakeholder Outreach / Web Development Requirements Definition

    July 2015 - Web Development Phase 1 Implementation Kick-Off
    September 2015 - Phase 1 Design Review / Stakeholder Review
    October 2015 - Finalization of Phase 1 Enhancements

    October 2015 - January 2016 - Stakeholder Outreach / Web Development Requirements Definition

    November 2015 - Web Development Phase 2 Implementation Kick-Off
    February 2016 - Phase 2 Design Review / Stakeholder Review
    April 2016 - Finalization of Phase 2 Enhancements

    April 2016 - June 2016

    June 2016 - December 2016

    Dissemination of results

    This project will be documented on with a dedicated page to illustrate it as an open source activity.  We plan to hold at least two series of webinars to orient farm innovators to the improved FarmHack site and  would likely target SARE grantees with appropriate anticipated project outputs as participants in those webinars.  The goal of the webinars is to help facilitate adoption of for dissemination of results from other SARE projects. Additionally, the PI and other members of the project team have identified several conferences
    and meetings at which the project would likely be well received including ASABE, NEFVC, & NOFA meetings.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.