Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Cool Free, Interactive Databases: Find Farmers Markets and Plant Information

Evan is a student at University of California Santa Barbara, and contacted us about sharing the two incredible databases he has been working on. We think Evan and Evan’s project are pretty cool, so we asked him to tell a little about himself. Thanks Evan!

During my sophomore year of college I took an elective Environmental Science class titled “Humans and the Biological Environment.”  The class would forever change my views of our earth and the way we treat it.  Our class learned how even the littlest things, such as buying produce grown in states hundreds of miles away, has a major impact on our habitat.  Urban sprawl and the negative effects of housing developments were especially eye opening because I’m an architecture student.  I decided to focus my studies on “green” and sustainable design and urban planning.

Most students know that eating organic fruits and vegetables – growing your own, or buying from farmers markets – is a sustainable, cheap and healthy alternative to buying produce from the supermarket.  But finding organic food can be difficult, especially if you live in an urban area.  You have to find farmers markets close to your home and know what plants will grow in your garden.

In October of this year I began interning for an organization called FindTheData and helped to create a Farmers Market Finder with the intention of helping fellow students, and all others, locate farmers markets in their area.  To narrow down your search, use the tool bars on the left side of the page to find markets that offer the products you are looking for, such as baked goods, cheese, jams and vegetables.

The data for this tool comes directly from the US Department of Agriculture’s farmers market database.  The USDA dataset is messy and hard to read; it had to be cleaned up, reorganized and then uploaded into FindTheData’s interactive platform.  The cool thing about this Farmers Market Finder is that anyone can add or edit a listing.  So in this regard, it is sort of like Wikipedia.  Also, to keep the tool social, anyone can add a review of each farmers market!

Another similar FindTheData tool is the plants database.  Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be a daunting task.  After all, there are over 45,000 plants native to North America. But with the plants database, users can search for plants based on growth habitat, drought tolerance, growth rate, bloom period, toxicity and more. You can also make side-by-side comparison of different plants, like the garden tomato vs. the strawberry tomato, for example.

After graduation I plan on taking a year off to travel and see the world.  But when I get back to the states, I plan on going to grad school to study learn more about urban planning and designing communities that adhere to the rules of smart growth and new urbanism.  In the meantime, I hope the Farmers Market Finder and the Plants Database will help people become a little more earth friendly.

Evan Thomas is a member of the Isla Vista Food Co-Op near the campus of UCSB and supports local farms in the Santa Barbara area.  Evan is also an intern at FindTheData, an interactive platform that organizes public datasets such as non-profit organizations and New York Recycling Centers.  Feel free to contact him at Evan_Thomas (@) with any questions, comments or ideas.



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2 Responses to “Cool Free, Interactive Databases: Find Farmers Markets and Plant Information”

  1. Hi Evan,

    I am so impressed by your work on these databases – and your passion and commitment to urban planning and sustainable design!

    I just graduated from Northeastern University last year with a degree in Environmental Science and Geology. In my last semester I took two planning courses – Water and Environmental Planning and Coastal Processes and Planning – which differ from urban planning, but adhere to the many of same principles! I fell in love with the idea of working to create unique spaces that are sustainable. I wish I had taken some architecture courses, but my background is in the understanding of how law (those darn zoning regs…) intersect with geologic factors related to planning (soil, water, bedrock, fault lines, weathering/erosion rates, climate, ect.)

    I still hope to work in planning, but most likely in agriculture – maybe even urban ag.! I hope that you’ll keep updating us on any new projects that you start. These are incredible tools that so many people will find useful!

  2. these are really valuable databases. Is it possible to access it for free or we have to but it?

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