Farmville players can now have a say in real-life farm policy. Image: Flickr / dunlopsouth / CC-BY

The Facebook game Farmville currently claims about 62 million active users. In an effort to reconnect virtual life to real life, an online Wimpole farm in the U.K. is turning itself into a Farmville. Up to 10,000 subscribers pay 30 pounds apiece for the right to get to make major decisions about the farm.

The idea of the online Wimpole farm

In an experiment called MyFarm, the National Trust is turning a working farm over to internet users. The 1,200-acre organic farm at Wimpole in Cambridgeshire is being wired. The 10,000 subscribers to the farm are being asked to make up to 12 major decisions about the farm each month. These decisions include which crops should be planted, which animals to buy and the harvesting of various crops.

What subscribers get for their money

At current exchange rates, the 30-pound subscription fee to the farm is about $50 U.S. Users get access to video updates, webcams, live webchats, debates and voting on the operation of the farm. This $50 fee is comparable to a membership in a community-supported agriculture farm or organic food co-op. The money will be used to support the technical infrastructure required to run MyFarm, as well as to actually run the farm. In essence, each online user becomes an investor in the farm, though no money will be returned to the players at the end of the growing year. Every farmer is also given the opportunity to visit the farm and estate with their families.

A history of farming innovation

The National Trust MyFarm project is being run on the same 2,500-acre parcel where experimental farming techniques have long been used. Run by the National Trust, a nature conservation charity in Europe, the farm is connected to more than 150 restaurants in Europe that make use of organic produce. In short, this farming innovation is piggybacking on one of Facebook’s biggest games in hopes of reconnecting people with the food they eat.


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