Although Kickstarter has a reasonably vibrant food section, it’s mostly filled with popsicles and food trucks. And no one will ever forget that potato salad that raised $55,000. Yet sustainable food systems are a natural fit for crowd-funding; they fit nicely with the idea of voting with your dollar and offer a neat solution for the 95% of us who want to support intelligent small-scale farming projects but don’t live nearby enough to volunteer regularly and had a brief fling with WWOOFing back in 2011 but don’t plan to return. Barnraiser, a newly launched website for food projects rooted in nutrition and sustainability, hopes to raise $1 billion for food innovators by building a crowd-funding community for the food movement. Current projects range from funding a heritage-breed ram for a flock of Ouessant ewes in Sonoma County to a very literal barn raising in Nebraska.
My initial reaction to this announcement went something along the lines of “this is all great, but everyone knows the people most invested in sustainable agriculture are also often the people who are the worst at the internet.” On its face, it seems like the project caters to farmers and entrepreneurs who are already computer literate and savvy enough to know about things like new crowd-funding websites. But Barnraiser has a plan to close that potential gap between the funders and the funded. “Unlike other crowdfunders, we provide enhanced marketing service and campaign planning for campaigns because we know that food innovators are often better at growing and making great food than doing online fundraising and marketing — and you need that support for success!” writes Margaret Gifford, community relations coordinator for farming and the East Coast.