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June 15, 2011

Finding what’s local at your farmers’ market

PORTLAND, OR, United States – People often ask me if, being from Portland, Oregon, the jokes made about my fair city in the TV Series Portlandia are true. That is, are we *really* that crazy about where our food comes from? Are we hippies?  Well, in some cases, yes – we like to a) treat our bodies to food that is sustainably grown and b) do the eco-friendly thing and ensure our food is grown locally.

In fact, Portland is home to a really great movement called “Farm To Table” whereby our city is surrounded by local farms and dairies and – in many instances – one can visit the farm where their food was grown and talk to the farmer who grew it. In Portland, we love our farmers’ markets, which is why a recent app discovery made me look twice and revived my interest in a project called Nokia Life Tools. Local & Fresh, available in Ovi Store, is a farmers’ market finder. By simply entering in your zip code you are given a list of local farmers’ markets. If there are no farmers’ markets based on your zip code, you can also search by city and state to see if a market is near you. Once you find a market, you can map it out and find fresh, local and organic food near you.

Thinking about farmer’s markets and how these facilitate the trade of farmers who grow a valued product and patrons who wish to buy the best produce at great prices, it reminded me of Nokia Life Tools. Life Tools is an SMS-based subscription service that seeks to use SMS as a delivery technology for customers in emerging markets. Life Tools takes Internet-based information and make it accessible to phones who previously weren’t able to access it because of their limited browsing technologies.

I know many farmers in my local area, in fact, I grew up working on farms growing up in rural Oregon. In many cases, farmers aren’t huge on technology unless it’s agriculturally based. I asked a grass seed farmer near me to see whether he would use a text messaging based application to research prices on fertilizer, feed and other necessities to keep producing crops. He said absolutely – he doesn’t want to pay high data prices that are associated with carriers here in the United States. Also, mobile networks in rural Oregon are rarely operating at break-neck 3G speeds, so a text messaging based platform would suit many producers in Oregon just fine, in the small sampling I took.

From the other end of the spectrum, I can imagine, if Life Tools were accessible to US consumers, we could research nearby farmer’s markets and see the going rates of a certain product needed. Perhaps if you’re in the mood for Marionberries – out of the three nearby farmers’ markets, which grower is offering the best price?

Would you use Nokia Life Tools in your daily life?  Or is an app just as good for your usage?

image credit: Mark Smith