Innovative Impact Assessment of Farm and Food Innovations

2016 Annual Report for ONE15-230

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

Innovative Impact Assessment of Farm and Food Innovations


In the second year of the project we have focused on evaluating Phase 1 / Year 1 FarmHack improvements via guided interviews with six (6) farmer partners.  The feedback provided from these interviews were used to guide the Phase 2 / Year 2 FarmHack improvements which will now be evaluated among a wider audience.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The project has stayed largely on track in the second year and has accomplished the planned Phase 2 scope using the intended methods as summarized below.

  1. Phase 2 / Year 2 – Feature revision and finalization – The features developed as part of Phase 1 were revised based on user feedback and overall evaluation.  Additional features and modification of Phase 1 features were included in this follow-on work.
  2. Implementation of  improvements was pursued as a web development project. A web development firm with working experience of FarmHack’s platform were hired to complete the work scope.
  3. Evaluating and distributing project results. Phase 1 outputs were evaluated using farmer/user/designer interviews.  These helped to refine the design improvements and better articulate the Phase 2 work scope.  The evaluation of Phase 2 work will be accomplished with a more broad audience. We are just beginning this component of the Phase 2 work scope.


February 2016 – July 2016  Phase 2 Design Review / Stakeholder Review – Farmer interviews were conducted to review the design changes made based on the 2015 updates.  A total of six (6) farmer designers were included in the process.  This interview and orientation process was intended as a “walk-through” demonstrating the new features of the site for documenting project outputs. The interviews guided further refinements completed in the fall of 2016. The primary feedback included:

  • Lower the bar – Make it clear that a very minimal level of documentation is acceptable for a user to post a tool.  The prior tool documentation framework included many sections and was heavily focused on written documentation.  Users interviewed suggested that a simple set of pictures, a video and some simple explanatory text may suffice for getting the tool documented. Specific user feedback:
    • Include links to help, or guiding help text along the path to documentation to make in-situ learning easier.
    • Use color to differentiate sections of the tool documentation page.
    • Be more clear about which sections of documentation are “required.”
    • Make it easier to edit and organize pictures and text inline (i.e. instead of media upload, etc.)
    • Implement a “draft” tool feature to allow users to chip away at documentation.
  • Encourage dialogue – Make it easier to discuss tools.  Following on the first piece of feedback, users also were keen to improve the mechanism for dialogue and tool feedback.  Having a tool minimally documented and allowing for easier crowd-sourcing of design feedback and input was seen as a means to accelerate tool maturity and impact. Specific user feedback:
    • Include help text updates to encourage collaboration and guide documentation best management practices.
  • Mobile friendly – Make the site more easily useable on mobile platforms.  Users who were keen to document their tools indicated that they were most likely to do so when standing in front of the tool with a smart-phone or other mobile device in hand.  Having a site that caters to that operating platform is critical to enabling the early, easy and recurring documentation and dialogue surrounding innovative tools. Specific user feedback:
    • Improve /adopt responsive design template to better serve the site content on mobile devices.
    • Improve the ease with which phone video and pictures can be used as documentation.
  • Generally, make it easier to use –
    • Include a “My Tools” section of user’s profile following login to help users more easily manage multiple tools at different stages of documentation.
    • Improve search functionality – Change default search display and enable tools to be highlighted on the front page without any HTML coding.
    • Improve problem statement fields by providing more informative guiding text.
    • Changed display to include tags and open source licence information
    • Include an “Impact Report” section to help users easily note farm impact of the tool.
    • Launch “like” and “use” buttons to capture whether users “like” a tool and also whether they “have used” a tool.
    • Create template for better integration into farmer-grower grants

A full list of development activities is available on the FarmHack Waffle Board (

July 2016 – November 2016 – Finalization of Phase 2 Enhancements – design changes were tested and completed and moved to the live site for general use.   


April 2016 – June 2016 – In addition to targeted Farmer interviews based on the 2015 updates, the project was also presented at agricultural gatherings including but not limited to the NOFA NY Winter Conference (January 2016, Saratoga Springs, NY), the Slow Tools 2016 gathering at Stonebarns Center for Food and Agriculture (NY), NOFA MA Summer Conference (MA). The project is also scheduled to be presented as part of several sessions and pre-conference work at the PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) 2017 conference.

Outreach has also been conducted through the improved web site front page, and through improved help text language.  A more substantial outreach campaign is in the planning phases for early 2017 and will include new Blog posts, and email blast to thousands of subscribers calling for feedback as well as highlighting video tutorials and webinars that will walk users through the improvements and new features available to the community.   

Farm Hack projects and the Farm Hack platform was featured in a Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum exhibit “By the People” and was covered by the New York Times – (


Dorn Cox

[email protected]
11 Randall Rd
Lee, NH 03861
Daniel Grover

[email protected]
11 Randall Rd
Lee, NH 03861