Local Dirt and Locavore recently launched a free search widget and API for their farm, farmers market and CSA mapping data. Local dirt is an online marketplace for buying and selling local food directly from the family farm. Locavore is a free iOS and Android app that helps users locate local, seasonal food. There are over 35,000 United States and Canad-based farms, farmers markets and CSAs in their combined databases, which you are now able to integrate into your own website or mobile app.
I got a chance to speak with Local Dirt founder Heather Hillern to learn more about their data, how they ensure it’s current and accurate, and how they navigate privacy concerns related to sharing user contributed data.
Heather Hillern: Local food systems everywhere are based off of relationships. Local relationships. Every area has their own way of connecting the dots. Our goal is to make it easier to access local food, and support family farms, by offering the tools to support local efforts.
Last week we changed our Locavore app to enable individuals to promote their local farms, markets, and CSAs, as well as connecting with other locavores. Offering the widget is just giving back the information that communities gave to us.
HH: We have 35,000 farms & farmer markets, some tagged as a CSA. We have the products they sell. We have photos to go with the products and sellers. We have in season data for all locations in the United States, Canada, and soon the UK.
The data is changing every day as people use the Locavore app, and our local food organization partners update their member’s information.
HH: Farm & FM data:
We get a lot from Local Dirt. Every year we ask farms & farmer markets to renew their account. If it doesn’t get updated, the listing is removed until they log back in. For the rest we partner with local food organizations that update their data every year. According to the USDA, small & midsized farms (revenues of $1K-1M), go out of business at the rate of 365 every week. There are many databases out there; ours is the most up to date.
In Season data:
Originally, we used an API from a nonprofit that identified what was in season for each state. We now have created our own database that identifies what is in season based off of lat/long location. It is much more accurate. This is updated based off of our ongoing research and crowd sourcing. Unfortunately, global warming is causing some changes in seasonality.
Most of all, people use the Locavore app. As they post about farms, markets, CSAs and local food, we use the tags to update the database.
HH: We are very sensitive to privacy concerns. Possibly because of that, we have never faced privacy issues. In Local Dirt we preemptively put in different privacy setting for profile pages, hid email addresses behind messaging, and set up a way to “block” other users from messages and showing information.
HH: We announced an API, the same one we use ourselves for Locavore. What we found is that organizations actually need a widget.
HH: So far we have been contacted by community organizations, bloggers, and food hubs. They all have the same goal in mind: to support local farms by making it easy for people to find what is available in their local area.
HH: There will not be any charge for the widget. For the API, the only instance we would consider charging is if an organization is making money off of the information.