Britain Gets a Real Life Farmville

The operators of a British farm are to allow internet users to take over its management.

Wimpole Home Farm is run by the National Trust, an organization better known for managing many of the UK’s stately homes. It’s decided to allow 10,000 members of the public to become virtual farmers, playing a role in the way the farm operates.

In return for an annual membership fee of £30 (approximately $US50), members will be able to help make one major decision each month. There’ll be a three-week debate period on a particular topic through a message board, followed by a binding vote. Matters decided in this way will include the choice of crops, animal breeds and machinery used on the farm.

The topic and options to choose from each month will be chosen by Richard Morris, who will be the real life farm manager and will carry out the decision. Members will generally have free reign in making the decisions, though they’ll have to comply both with the law and some specific environmental requirements that affect the estate.

In return for their fee, members will also be entitled to an annual visit for up to five people (including free parking) to Wimpole Hall, the stately home and gardens that houses the farm. There’ll also be access to webcams and video updates about the farm.

The concept is partly inspired by MyFootballClub, a project that involved Internet users clubbing together to buy Ebbsfleet United, an association football team in England’s minor leagues. Members have the right to approve or reject proposed transfers of players to and from other clubs, as well as having some say in the selection of the line-up of players for each game. Other decisions they’ve voted on include the choice of team colors and uniform design for each season. However, the novelty of membership appears to have worn off, and only a little over 10% as many people are members now as when the scheme started in 2007.