Wimpole Farm, a working farm run by the UK’s National Trust in Cambridgeshire, England, is hoping to capitalize on the internet obsession with FarmVille by opening up its operations to 10,000 internet fans. They’re calling the project MyFarm.
By paying 30 pounds a year, internet users the world over can have access the world over to a wealth of information about the farm, and then, once a month, vote on a crucial decision for the farm. The website hosts discussion boards to help educate its virtual farmers about the issues the farm faces, and encourage active participation among its constituents.
It seems to me to be a very interesting experiment. Some possible concerns have been headed off at the path – on-site expert managers will of course make day to day decisions, and will not let inexperienced virtual users make any decisions that would adversely affect the health of the animals.
Will it work? Virtual farmers, obsessed with FarmVille, may be interested in their pixellated crops for different reasons than have to do with traditional farming. FarmVille offers more-or-less instantaneous gratification, few consequences, and easy growth. Real farms offer pretty much the opposite of that. So this could be a great way to teach people about the actual decisions involved in farming – or it could be a lot of dissatisfaction. As with most things, success may hinge on communication and management of expectations by the Wimpole Farm.
It will be fascinating to watch, either way! If anyone out there decides to sign up as a farmer, let us know so we can talk about it.