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Real Time Farms Crowd-Sources to Map U.S. Food System

By Lesley Lammers

Founded by Karl and Cara Rosaen, Real Time Farms (RTF) is a new crowd-sourcing online food guide that is every foodie’s dream, acting as a restaurant guide, local farm source map, and food artisan storytelling hub all wrapped up into one. As their website boasts, “As crazy as it sounds, our vision is to collectively document the whole food system. We are powered by the people!” You can search for farms, food artisans and farmers markets in your area by simply typing in your zip code.

The “where to eat” section lets you search your city which pulls up a map listing all the eateries, food carts and restaurants in your area with links to menus. But the most innovative part is that this feature shows you which farms that dining spot sources their menu from and maps that out visually as well, taking quite literally the idea of helping folks know just exactly where their food comes from.

Restaurants can tell their menu’s story, providing website visitors with a more personal connection and genuine understanding of the source of their meal. One chef that uses RTF, Alex Young (James Beard Winner) of Zingerman’s Roadhouse, praised the site saying, “Real Time Farms gives our customers the ability to see and learn why we choose the products we choose.”

The catch is, farmers, markets, restaurants and food artisans have to participate in order for it to work to everyone’s advantage. The concept is that all of this information is to be shared freely and anyone can sign up to post photos of, add and update profiles of and promote their favorite farm, farmers market and food artisans.

To help source content, RTF started the Food Warrior Program, an educational internship program that recruits food lovers to participate in documenting the food web by visiting farms, farmers markets and food artisans and recording their practices and operations with interviews, photos and video. Food Warriors have the opportunity to publish blog entries on RTF’s blog www.blog.realtimefarms.com in addition to receiving education about the U.S. food system either virtually or in person. Their first ever “army” of warriors ranged from ages 18 to age 61 our 18 and were based for the summer in New York City, Boulder, Los Angeles, Seattle and Michigan.

RTF is sponsoring musicians Coco and Lafe as they perform at 100 farmers markets from coast to coast as part of their “Get Fresh” tour to promote farmers markets and eating fresh, healthy and local.

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Lesley Lammers is a freelance sustainability consultant and journalist, focused on the intersection between the environment, food, social impact, human rights, health and entrepreneurship.

Read more stories by Lesley Lammers