The Local Food Economy Game is an applied research and social action project of Sohodojo. Our goal is to increase the production and consumption of wholesome foods grown and sold locally. We are developing a web-based exploratory learning environment where folks can have fun while deepening their appreciation of the social and economic impacts of "Buy Fresh, Buy Local."

Take time to stop and smell the data...

The next step before going too much further would be to do some field work. There is no substitute for direct observation of what you are trying to model.

You should plan to spend a Thursday session at the Grinnell Farmer's Market first, followed by a Saturday morning at the Fairfield market. Ask questions of buyers and sellers, take notes. Keep in mind all that you have been reading and thinking in terms of modeling the market elements. Use the blog space to share how this direct experience shapes your thinking around the system model.

Also before going further on the modeling side of this project, you should do a good bit of on-line research on the local food economy projects here in Iowa. Get a good feel for each project and develop a kind of 'mental model' if you will of how each 'system' is set up.

Information about Grinnell Grocery Stores

This blog entry will contain an always-updated log of the information I have about Grinnell's four grocery stores: Hy-Vee Food Stores, McNally's, Fareway, and Super Wal*Mart:

From Wikipedia (

* Hy-Vee Food Stores - Located on the very far southern edge of town. There is no sidewalk or other way for bikers and pedestrians to get to Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee offers drive-up service upon request (you drive to the side of the store and they will load your car with your packages for you). Hy-Vee is open on Sundays.
* McNally's - This locally owned independent store is the most centrally located grocery store in town. It has the widest selection of gourmet food products as well as a large alcohol section. This store caters to the college crowd and to those looking for upscale or smaller-market products. McNally's has carry out boys and they will also deliver. McNally's is open on Sundays.

Design of Simulation Game: First Draft

This post contains my design for our LFEG simulation based on a FACET or PlatBox framework. This entry will be constantly updated as my ideas and information change.

Agent: BuyerX

  • Number of people who share behaviors and information of BuyerX (the number of people that the agent Buyer1 represents):
  • Behavior: Preference for locally produced foods: -1.0 to 1.0 (-1.0 = much prefer non-locally produced foods, 0 = indifferent, 1.0 = much prefer locally produced foods):
  • Behavior: Importance of price: 0 to 1.0 (0 = price does not matter, 1.0 = will always buy cheaper item, if quality is equal):

An update on what I've been doing

  • Still trying to get a hold of The World is Flat. Seems to be permanently checked out at the college library...
  • Regarding our "problem" domain, I have been doing some research online on the local food economies of Grinnell and Fairfield. Not surprisingly, given the small size of the two towns, there is little information available on the internet; the two best articles I found are linked in my blog entry "Facts about local food."
  • I e-mailed Jon Andelson about setting up a time to meet with him; I hope to do that this week. When I meet with him, I'll try to get some biographical information that we can use on the website in introducing him as a potential collaborator.

Facts about local food

  • In the United States, annual food sales total nearly $1 trillion. Locally sourced foods account for less than 1 percent of that figure.
  • In 2000, Kamal Hammouda--the owner of Phoenix Cafe & Inn in Grinnell, who buys local food for his business--and others formed the Grinnell Area Local Food Alliance. They tried to get Grinnell College to buy locally grown food products. So far, they have not succeeded.
  • Grinnell Area Local Food Alliance (GALFA) is a broad-based community alliance whose goal is to increase the demand for locally produced foods by selected institutions in the Grinnell area. Organizations involved in the alliance include Grinnell College, Iowa Valley Community College, the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture, a loccal community supported agriculture enterprise, and Imagine Grinnell (a nonprofit organization). Beginning in 2002 a half-time coordinator (who reports to the alliance) has begun to work with Grinnell area farmers to broker food to a range of Grinnell area institutions including restaurants, a retirement home, and Grinnell College dining services. The GALFA effort at Grinnell College builds on the student intern food brokering initiated in 2001.

Want to find out where your food comes from?

Check out

Find out where your food comes from, how you can buy local, why you should buy local, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), "Buy Fresh, Buy Local," and much more.


AgentSheets Modeling Software

Right now, I'm playing with the program AgentSheets ( as a candidate for our simulation platform. AgentSheets is an "actor-based simulation-authoring tool that lets users create their own interactive simulations and games." Unlike most other programs that I've examined (RePast, Ascape), AgentSheets requires no prerequisite programming language; however, it remains to be seeing whether AgentSheets, given that it doesn't make use of a complex programming language, has the capability to express all the information and dynamics that we need.

Agent-based Computational Economics and Programming

After thoroughly examining Leigh Tesfatsion's website on Agent-Based Computational Economics, it is clear that there is a multitude of options for agent-based simulation platforms providedthe designer knows a programming language. As I do not have this knowledge (outside of a basic knowledge of the Scheme language), it seems that one of our obstacles is to find a platform for which little or no programming knowledge is necessary. At this point, it seems that PlatBox is our only option in that category, unless, of course, I were to spend time learning enough of a programming language t

For Good Measure in Ames - CSA Research at NCRCRD

I knew we were in good shape with regard to local food economy experts here in Iowa. In addition to Jon Andelson at Grinnell College (more on his exciting work in a follow-up post), Timlynn and I were aware of the wonderful group of social action-oriented researchers at the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development at Iowa State in Ames. These folks, led by Cornelia Butler Flora and Mary Emery, are doing exciting work developing the Community Capitals Framework.

An ACE in Ames - Leigh Tesfatsion

We have two primary goals for this project during Jelal's time here as our summer intern:

  • identification of candidate simulation software technologies and development of a proof of concept for The Local Food Economy Game as a web-based exploratory learning environment, and
  • identify and pursue the development of collaborative relationships with Iowa-based kindred spirit researchers in both the local food economy and agent-based simulation domains.


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