Earthineer's Dan Adams: "We want to remake the food landscape and connect members with their neighbor's backyards and kitchens." (Photo courtesy: Earthineer)
CINCINNATI - Northern Kentucky homesteader Dan Adams wants to revive the barter economy. His effort, Earthineer.com , is part homesteading tutorial, part social network and part local marketplace.
To date, thousands of Earthineer members have embraced Adams' vision of supporting self-sufficiency and community sharing.
1. Why did you start Earthineer?
I'm a programmer, but I also consider myself to be a homesteader. We garden, can and preserve, milk goats, keep bees, raise chickens and turkeys, tap trees for maple syrup and build solar panels.
I started Earthineer because I saw a genuine need to not just be connected and learn from other homesteaders, but also to facilitate trades (food swaps, seed swaps, plant swaps and services). When we first started beekeeping, we traded for our first two nucs (small honey bee colonies). We were milking goats and had access to lots of goats milk which we used to make cheeses and cajeta (Mexican syrup). We barter or trade any chance we get. We see a lot of value in broadening that network.
2. What is your grand vision for Earthineer?
Our overall goal for Earthineer is to promote homesteading (both rural and urban) as a lifestyle choice.
However, the “grand vision” is to bring back the barter system. We want to remake the food landscape and connect members with their neighbor's backyards and kitchens.
3. What are the most popular aspects of Earthineer?
We released a new site back in August, and part of that release was a “groups” component. The groups have become a popular feature (with groups forming on topics like Alt Energy, Preserving, Poultry, Recipes, Gardening, etc). However, our blogs still get a lot of traction, and still accounts for the majority of our unique visitors every month.
All of that being said, I fully expect the Local Marketplace and Barter (which we should be releasing in February) to the driving force behind Earthineer in 2014. I believe it will eclipse everything else we've done to date.
4. How many users do you have?
We're over 18,000 now. We usually get a few hundred sign-ups every month, with larger bumps around fairs and workshops.
5. Some of your founding sponsors include Mother Earth News, BackWoods Home and Grit Magazines. What types of contributions, other than financial, did those sponsors make in carrying out the vision of Earthineer?
Although the financial contributions are part of the equation, the greatest value that we receive from our sponsors is in generating awareness.
Backwoods Home has written an article on Earthineer, and continues to help promote us.
We have a good rapport with Mother Earth News. This year, we've deepened our relationship with them. I'll be a regular blogger for Mother Earth News, and will be providing video content for them (all of which will help promote Earthineer).
I've been a speaker at the Mother Earth News Fair for the past several years. This year, I've made the main stage. Our “DIY Solar Panels” presentation has proven to be very popular. I'm pretty excited to be there, sharing the stage with the likes of Joel Salatin, Temple Grandin, and Woody Tasch.
6. How do you make money from the site?
Currently, we make money from sponsorships and advertisements. As with all “content” type sites, the challenge is growing the user base to justify the money made through advertisements. However, once the Local Marketplace and Barter features launches, we'll be able to take a transactional fee on any sales as well. That will open up another source of revenue for us.
7. What are your biggest challenges in growing the site?
As with most startups, our biggest challenges are in building the user base and funding (and giving ourselves enough runway to build the revenue stream). We've grown mainly by word-of-mouth, attending trade shows, and running workshops. We've been fortunate in having an active community. We have a lot of opportunities for attention and generating awareness this year, so we're excited to be at a good stage for more growth.
8. Is all of Earthineer's content submitted by members or do you create content as well?
In the early days, most of the content was from friends and family, and I was a lot more involved with keeping the content fresh.
As the site grew, we had a lot more content being produced by our members, and we're attracting some good talent from industry publications (New Pioneer is a good example of this). Will Dobkins (he goes by Homestead Ironworks on the site) is a writer for New Pioneer, and he often blogs on topics relating to blacksmithing. Jereme Zimmerman (goes by RedHeadedYeti on the site) is a long-time contributor to Earthineer and also a writer for New Pioneer (at this point, he usually has 1 article per issue in New
Pioneer). His blogs on mead making are very popular.
We now have a “pinning” feature (think Pinterest for homesteading topics), so we expect to see an uptick in the amount of content we're aggregating.
On the “social network” side of things, lots of people contribute to wall posts, conversations, and Q&A.
9. What's next for Earthineer? Anything new coming?
We're releasing a Local Marketplace and Barter (we're looking to release in February).
It's like a Craiglist, Freecycle, and an Ebay all rolled into one, and entirely focused on connected you with people, farms, and food nearby.
When we open the Local Marketplace and Barter, we'll start with a big seed swap.
WATCH: Earthineer Local Marketplace and Barter Video
Connect with WCPO Contributor Feoshia Davis via Twitter: @feoshiawrites .