Capitalizing on the enormous success of the Facebook game Farmville, where players run a virtual farm, the National Trust is allowing participants to discuss and vote on what to buy and plant on a real 2,500 farm which is currently home to cattle, pigs, sheep and crops.
The farm, Winpole Estates, is one of the sites which the National Trust had made open to the public. The Trust cares for sites throughout the UK including; 350 historic houses, gardens, ancient monuments, forests, woods, beaches, farmland, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves and villages.
The goal of the project, called MyFarm, is to help people reconnect with farming and learn more about how food is produced. “If we are going to find a sustainable way to feed 9 billion people by 2050, farming needs to change,” said Winpole manager Richard Morris. “But it can’t do it on its own, it needs public opinion to change too.”
10,000 participants, each paying a £30 annual subscription will take control of farm management through discussions and monthly voting on everything, from what crops to grow to what livestock to nourish. Membership also includes a free family ticket to the farm, where they can see the results of their efforts.
Because the Trust has not indicated reliance on membership to support the farm, they should fare better than did a similar effort, My Football Club, which offered football fans the prospect of running their own club. In 2007 a web-based consortium bought non-league team Ebbsfleet United and gave members the vote on team selection, new signings and so on. 32,000 fans signed up for a piece of ownership but by 2010 the club was facing waning membership and financial struggles.