US Discussion: does ofn need a killer app?

I’ve been thinking about OFN for years now and one thing that gives me and many users pause is how complex it can be. Particularly for vendors.

I discussed with @guy, who hasn’t been online in a while trying to figure out a free grant supported way of supporting the US ecosystem. There’s a challenge with needing a massive user base at rates that people seem used to. Food hubs seem to require 20+% commissions to stay in business but beginning farmers who many of us prefer to support almost invariably balk at 20%. Even though it’s 1/3 the rate they might be charged by a grocery chain. Or even a restaurant.

An alternative to the struggle determining and “selling” a commission to independently minded small farmers (who will stubbornly spend extra hours texting and calling to get products sold (or not) because their time is cheap and they seem to expect 60+ hour work weeks.

So. Cutting to my idea of a killer app. I think it’d be amazing if we could develop an OFN simple version for meat clubs. Meat clubs are extremely popular with the current paleo craze. And the spreadsheets can get fairly complicated.

One thing that could simplify facilitating these meat clubs would be Balanced payments, a payment processor with escrow services through Wells Fargo. It’s super high on my wish list for OFN (and may only be available in the US, I’m not sure).

This OFN lite meat club app, if sufficiently successful, would help populate buying clubs and lower margin veggie sales. The long slow slog of building a new ecosystem can often get stuck when new areas go online piecemeal and don’t hit critical mass. A killer app like a meat club could help us make start up a lot simpler and recruit saavy captains to help move beyond meat into a whole diet ofn. It might even provide some training wheels for these vendors and facilitators that could help them learn variants for example while simplifying order cycling (just an example, there might be better examples for things that could be simplified and could later be learned for non meat, often lower margin items).

Related, there is a local food, gourmet, almost TV dinner type mean company that sources 80% of their ingredients within a two county radius of Charlotte NC (we’re in that radius here in Salisbury). They’re also at the center of a chef/farmer coalition called the

I’m kind of downloading my brain here but hope this can spark some new discussion on how to position OFN USA/NA.

cc @Angie-US, @MikeiLL, others?

A few of us have been talking about the potential complexity of setting up new hubs while in France this week. We’ve a few ideas for attempting to simplify this process…

We’ve been thinking a set of case studies of different ways that you can use OFN, with descriptions of the business/community and then simple set up guides to set up in this way. Our thoughts are that this would be a hugely useful resource for instance providers to help to demonstrate the huge range of potential businesses that can run under OFN.

@eric Perhaps instead of thinking you want to fork and simplify the project, perhaps you could create a case study about how to set up a meat club on OFN. Talk about the what and the why and then provide a simple, step by step set up guide to this kind of business.

Firstly, this is FAR less work. Secondly, it supports an ecosystem of food and doesn’t reduce OFN to a fraction of its usability. Thirdly it would be a far more valuable contribution to the global commons that a fork that would require its own updates and tweaks that would require its own funding streams to support.

We’re interested in figuring out a clean and concise way to communicate the range of potential business models that OFN could support to that the case studies could be compared and contrasted easily.

Let me know if this is something that you’d like to collaborate on and perhaps provide the first case study example.


@eric as a developer(ish), I’m definitely leaing more towards @lin_d_hop’s suggestion. Rather than build a new app and try to maintain another fork, let’s create a simplified use case scenario with what’s already there.

Granted, we don’t have even a staging instance up and running yet, but once we do, we only need to get one enterprise (supplier) and a small group of buyers to get a single hub up and running.

This is kind of the idea behind Agile Development . Get something out there by the path of least resistance, sooner, so it can be tweeked and/or developed based on actual user feedback. This is a response to the older model which was spending a long time fully developing an application (often desktop-based as opposed to web, which has much more robust capabilities now and is generally OS agnostic), hoping that it would work and be well received. For a new App, path of least resistance is generally fewer features, but for us it’s simply working with what’s already there.

The learning curve for a relatively simply enterprise doesn’t look too terribly complex and at least initially can be handled by those of us who are getting an instance up and running. For instance, I could probably set up an enterprise for Old Man Bob’s Farm, who barely even knows his own email address. This may or may not end up being sustainable, but at least we can start poking at it and get a feel for the system.

Love the idea of connecting with balanced payments. Would that need to be something implemented by the app, or would it simply be a single destination for some of the payments?

That’s certainly valid. Maybe we can combine some level of preconfiguration
and make really solid documentation to help speed up adoption. (I need to
read through what currently exists and play around more with the staging
server probably since I’m sure there’s a lot of new stuff!)

Does staging2 stay current with the main branch?

Here’s a link about getting Balanced Payments set up in the Spree engine:

Great find, @eric - at least it looks like it will be. I’ll be occupied through the beginning of next week, but am aiming to get an instance running, at a least in the hobbling stages, on a remote server we can all play with in the next couple of weeks.

I’m not sure what you mean by staging2. “staging” is an environment that an instance would be run in, as distinct from testing, development and production. It’s basically the same thing, but with different database, email server and other “environmental” variables. Is there something I missed?

Here’s the staging2 link I’d meant to include:

I think we should try to get our shit together for this Food + Tech
competition. If y’all are up for it let’s rock this thing:

Help me get projections for AWS and lets try to draft something…

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@MikeiLL and @eric - So sorry I couldn’t make the hangout last week, we had an illness in the family. I’d like to go ahead and outline for you here my initial thoughts for an OFN-US beta test project, as well as the potential for funding assistance through another organization Plentiful Earth Foundation is currently working closely with to get some of our projects off the ground.

@lin_d_hop - Your suggestion about creating a set of case studies is right in line with my thoughts on a pilot research project. :smiley: I would like to identify 5-10 potential pilot hubs/producers of varying operational diversity who would be willing to use/test the platform to collaborate on the development of US feature sets and needs. Each pilot hub would agree to provide feedback (to PEF, OFN-US, however we organize it) on the platform in the form of a case study for the project.

By “hubs/producers of varying operational diversity” I mean begin to explore all of the different ways a community of people could use this platform for food exchange. @eric, your meat shares hub is one example. Other potential contacts in my network that I plan to reach out to on this include a 75 acre off-grid eco-village that operates a CSA and large farmers market stand in Indiana; the Gaylord, MI downtown farmers’ market; a garden/farm project in rural Southern Ohio run by an organization that provides employment to people with developmental disabilities; an inner-city urban farm/community garden in Chicago or Detroit that needs to accept SNAP (food stamp) payments; a regional community of “foragers” in the Midwest selling wild edibles, etc.

I am NOT a developer, so I will definitely need feedback from @MikeiLL and others on the steps involved in launching something like this. :smiley:

The data generated by the test hubs helps us apply for additional funding and expands OFN’s user guide information for different kinds of hub/producer setups. We will need to discuss organizational setup soon. The pilot could be run as a collaboration agreement between PEF, OFN, and other US parties which could lead to the eventual organization of OFN-US as a separate non-profit entity, or I’m open to everyone’s suggestions on this. My only real feelings on organizational structure for US is to try and foster mutually beneficial circles of collaboration for everyone involved. :smiley:

A member of PEF’s board has agreed to assist us with finding a minimum of $12-$15,000 USD toward the development and launch of this project through a network of “socially conscious investors”. Potentially more toward the expansion of new hubs. I need a lot of feedback on estimated costs for implementation. Perhaps @Selmo or @MyriamBoure could provide some info from their instances?

OK, sorry that might be a lot all at once, but I felt the need to just get it all out of my head and out here so I can hear everyone’s thoughts on the idea. :smiley:

PS: I’ve secured the domain name for us for future use. :wink:

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Solid input, @Angie-US. As someone with some experience in web application development, my initial reaction is, “let’s get ONE simple hub up and running first”. Second thought is - especially since there is some funding secured (ish?), let’s assemble a small DevOp team, including an experienced Rails developer (I’m new to it) and someone who is very experienced in Server Administration - maybe even secure to a really good “front-end developer”, so that we can get a much more informed assessment than I could possibly provide with my growing but limited experience.

Most likely we will leverage Cloud Hosting such as Amazon (maybe even there’s a more ethical provider), or managed Hosting as provided by Heroku, who layer Systems Administration interfacing on top of Amazon. It costs a little more, but saves on Systems Administration labor.

From what @Selmo has said, @RohanM and his small team are stretched fairly thin right now so for us to generate some excitement among a few (more) developers in our region around this really cool project would be a worthwhile use of our energy.

Can at least some of us US folks schedule a Google hang with each other in the next week or two and see if we can hammer out a course of action for the next couple of months?

In the meantime, I’ve been stealing a few evening (and late night) hours to familiarize myself with the software, and plan to install a light-weight instance on a server we can all play around with soon.

This all sounds great - I’m very excited about this whole conversation!
What @MikeiLL proposes sounds very wise to me, especially when judging from the UK experience, where they’re basically ready to launch in terms of the technology (well, almost), but while they do have some skilled and invested tech people, they’re missing the whole tech team that you outline, Mike. So they’re on hold until both the funds and the people can be secured to launch [@lin_d_hop correct me if I’m wrong].
If the US starts with a solid tech team, that would certainly be a very strong start and bring more resilience to the whole global structure. You could even think about a US/Canada tech team and pool resources with @tschumilas, who’s setting up things in Canada and has some funding, too.
A HO does sound like a good idea. Let me know if you want me involved.
Go team US!! :smile:

@MikeiLL and everyone - I’m slammed with other things this week, but a hangout any day after next Monday (10/26) should work for me. Best times are between Noon and 3pm (est). I’m having some trouble with my laptop overheating and shutting down on my when I try and video chat, but I should be able to attend with just audio until I can get it fixed. If I happen to drop out suddenly, you’ll know why. :stuck_out_tongue:

In the mean time, I’ll search through my contacts for connections who are experienced with Rails and may be interested in contributing, see if I can get some ideas for generating interest in the project. Assistance in finding the funding has been promised, but we will need to put together a detailed projected budget and timeline for development and launch so can write the proposal for submission. We need to compile a list of the minimum team positions needed to start - developers, Systems Admin, email support, etc., along with median wage information, cost of hosting, etc. Also, figures from the other instances which have launched or are trying to. @Selmo, Perhaps you could assist us with gathering some of that information as well as the needs/requirements OFN-AU would have for global development support from the project? :smiley:

Let me know what days/times might work best for you all next week, and we’ll schedule a chat.

Hi to @Angie-US and other US folks - my name is @tschumilas Theresa Schumilas (email me directly at: I have funding from the Laurier University - Centre for Sustainble Food Systems to set up a basic Canadian Instance of OFN. We are purchasing services from the Aus team to do this because I have no tech partners at the moment. I’m thinking that I need something to ‘show and tell’ so I can build interest in other Canadian locations and build a tech community around me. I am in the process of talking with funders, and trying to put together a 3-5 year funding plan to get OFN-Canada into a self-sustaining position. I’d be really happy to participate in a skype call or HO with you folks from the US if you want to swap plans. I also think we should look toward a joint Can-Am OFN early days hackathon say in Feb-March or something like that to help create buzz and draw interest (from foodies and techies) in the project. I don’t have a website to refer you to yet - but you can go to my own farm site - to see some of the blog posts on ‘farm 2.0’ that I’ve done, that kind of describes how this is evolving here.

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@tschumilas, @eric @Angie-US I’m not seeing Ashley/Fresh Start Farms on here. Will send an email.

Theresa, I missed you in our discussion today. Not sure if maybe wires got crossed in scheduling.

Eric, Angela and I, with some input from @Selmo discussed today that our next step should probably be forming an organization with the purpose of creating one or more OFN instances in America and that it probably makes sense for the organization, at least for now, to include Canada.

We want to talk about

  1. Name
  2. Mission Statement
  3. Board of Directors/Roles
  4. By-laws

Please respond so we can all be in on determining on how best to proceed. We scheduled another web conference for Monday, Nov 9th at 1pm EST, but this could be shifted depending on availability.

Sorry - I didn’t see a conclusion on the meeting time - so missed it.
I can certainly join a discussion on Nov 9 at 1:00 EST. Is this a hangout? can someone send me a link in an email: I seem to be terrible at hangouts - but I will do my best.

I am happy to be part of the discussions re: forming an organization - but fyi, I’m in the process of registering a Canadian charity for this purpose. But I agree its a good idea to stay in touch. These would, I believe, be ‘sister’ organizations, each structured in their respective legal environments. But to the extent that charitable registration requirements are the same, we would be able to share materials. I doubt that I’d be in a position to register a charitable organization here for a while - there are very tight restrictions on charities here.

Please send me details for the meeting.

Hi Theresa. It will be a Google Hangout and @MikeiLL will be sending out the invite link to everyone. I hope you can join us, and look forward to discussing ways we can collaborate on mutual goals. :smile:

Hello everyone!

@MikeiLL, @eric, and @Selmo - It was great to talk to you all last week! Thanks so much for bearing with me on my technical difficulties. I hope to have my video troubles taken care of by Christmas. :blush:

I wanted to post a few thoughts/notes from our meeting to continue the discussion as we decide how best to organize moving forward. :wink:

Organization and Tax Exempt Status: I think we’ve pretty much agreed that we would like to form a 501©(3) non-profit organization. We will need to discuss whether this should be in the form of a public charity, a private foundation, or the hybrid private operating foundation which combines some of the tax benefits of a public charity with the financial control of a private foundation.

My research:
“Public Charity vs. Private Foundation” -
“What it Takes to be a Private Operating Foundation” -

Name: I’ve suggested Open Food Network US, which would be consistent with and supportive of global branding efforts and used in conjunction with the domain name But I’m open to other ideas. :wink:

I’m working on assembling drafts for by-laws, purpose, etc. and should have them set up in a shared Drive this week. As we develop our Mission Statement, I am reflecting on OFN’s Partner Values discussion. :heart:

Thank you all for the time and effort you’re dedicating to this. I’m so excited to be a part of it! Hope you’re all having a great week! :smiley:

We probably need to determine, as well, what state we will incorporate in, so that our articles meet the required criteria for 501C3. I think, and hope, that you and @eric have more knowledge about this than I do.

I agree that Open Food Network US is the most obvious name for our group. You with us in that @eric?

@MikeiLL - My suggestion would be to file in one of the states we live in so the person living in the state we choose can also serve as the organization’s Registered Agent. I will put together some info on filing requirements and costs for Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida next week.

@eric and @tschumilas, I’ve had something come up on Monday that I’m not able to reschedule and won’t be able to make a 1pm hangout. Would there be a time Monday evening or Tuesday afternoon that would work for everyone? If not, please feel free to go ahead without me and one of you can fill me in after. :wink:

Hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend!

I’m good Monday evening anytime. Tuesday evening after 4:00 also works. Wednesday anytime works.

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@Angie-US, @eric, @tschumilas - Wednesday is wide open for me. I could also do Tuesday evening at 5pm EST for one hour.

Tuesday evening or Wednesday anytime works for me too. I haven’t heard anything from @eric.