E-Net News

Michelle Ferrier wins $1,000 grant for online community about local foods

With a consuming desire for great local food and growing local economies, communications associate professor Michelle Ferrier launched LocallyGrownNews.com this week, an online community where Piedmont Triad residents become the journalists. Her work was recognized with a $1,000 grant from a regional design center focused on advanced digital technologies.

The LocallyGrown News online community features stories, photos and events about local foods and products.

LocallyGrownNews.com taps into the growing hyperlocal online community movement and the passion of citizen journalists. The content focuses on locally grown produce and local goods as the entry into conversations about sustainability and local economies.

Ferrier’s inspiration comes from the Barbara Kingsolver book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” published in 2007. In the book, Kingsolver and her family resolve to live off of foods produced within 50 miles of their Virginia home. The book is credited with launching the “locavore” movement -- those who eat close to home. Locavore was named the word of the year for 2007 by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

LocallyGrownNews.com is funded by a $10,000 grant from the McCormick Foundation through the J-Lab New Media Women Entrepreneurs program. Ferrier’s consulting firm Creative Technologists, LLC manages the project.

Ferrier received an additional $1,000 grant from the Center for Design Innovation in Winston-Salem, N.C., as one of three winners of its "coopetition". On Oct. 10, LocallyGrown News will join the 6th annual Design, Art & Technology Symposium. The symposium theme is FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Nourish roots / Cultivate ideas / Harvest change!

“The grants challenged me to create an online platform and a conversation that could help build social capital,” Ferrier said. “I created a tool where communities can share what they know around eating locally with others.”

LocallyGrownNews.com is built on the CommunityQ platform, a content management system built by Creative Circle Advertising Solutions of Massachusetts. The technology is used by major newspapers and broadcast outlets nationwide.

Ferrier has customized the platform to ensure the community members are foremost in the design and function of the site. The goal is to make LocallyGrownNews.com grow to other communities interested in locally grown foods.

“First and foremost, this project is about building a community and growing social capital,” Ferrier said. “I think we can eat our way to healthier, happier democracy by making the farmers market the new town center.”

Creative Technologists, LLC is a communications firm located in Greensboro, N.C. The company provides digital content and architecture solutions to nonprofit, educational and for-profit organizations.

The LocallyGrown News online community lets registered members post their own stories, photos and events on the site.
Elon Communications Professor Michelle Ferrier writes and photographs local stories about farmers markets, farmers and other sustainability-related topics for the site.
Michelle Ferrier,
6/21/2010 2:25 PM