Urban Farming Today Is Like the Internet More Than 20 Years Ago


The first Square Roots Urban Farming Campus, Brooklyn, New York.

As Kimbal Musk puts it, “the opportunity in front of entrepreneurs in real food today is bigger than the internet was to my generation in the mid-90s.” That’s one of the reasons we set up Square Roots — to empower the next generation to become entrepreneurial leaders in the coming real food revolution.

Hopefully some of the stuff we learned about making the internet work back then is helpful to the next generation as they tackle the opportunity in real food right now.

Some parallels hit home one morning this week when I bumped into Maxwell as I arrived on the Square Roots farm in Brooklyn. He was just heading home for some sleep after harvesting all night. Max is one of the first ten entrepreneur-farmers at Square Roots. His cohort classmate Electra had also pulled a late one — and this incredible time lapse video shows how hard they have to work in the farms today, and how manual the harvesting process is right now.


I got an instant flash back to 1994. I was working on the student newspaper at Cardiff University, doubling up as Music Reviews Editor and ‘That Crazy Internet Guy’. Once the newspaper had been put to bed, I would save all the Quark Xpress* files on to mountain of floppy disks, put them in my backpack, and walk home via a convenience store to stock up on Redbull. Then I would stay up all night, inserting floppy disk after floppy disk into my own 386 computer, manually copying and pasting article after article into a rudimentary text editor where I would painstakingly markup thousands of headlines, bylines, photo captions and article text with hardcoded HTML, before “dialing up the internet” with a 28.8 kbit/s modem connected to a landline, and sit there for hours pushing up webpages… all to create the first online student newspaper in the UK!! It didn’t matter how much of a pain in the ass that whole process was, the energy and ideas I got from glimpsing at the future was incredible.

While going through those efforts, you were constantly thinking about ways to improve, ways to automate, ways to scale… ways to bring the internet to everyone. And we’re seeing Max and Electra and all the other Square Roots entrepreneurs going through that same thought process right now. The energy and ideas flying around the Square Roots Slack channels on a daily basis are incredible. And as we start to turn those ideas into realities, we march ever closer towards the big idea of bringing real food to everyone.

It’s happening.

If you want to learn more about Square Roots, come to our farm tour and farmers market on Tuesday! See the farms, meet the farmers — and taste the freshly harvested food. Details on our website.

*This was reasonably early in the “desk top publishing” revolution too, and Quark Xpress was the bomb 🙂

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