The early bird gets the iPhone. And also gets media attention for an organic farm at the White House

Farmboys turned fanboys?


You may have heard that the iPhone 3G went on sale this morning. I saw a line outside of the AT&T; stores here in Manhattan, and I heard there was a line around the block this morning at the Union Street Apple store in San Francisco. But for the most part the lines this year paled in comparison to the initial launch. Yet my friend, Daniel Bowman Simon, takes the cake. Or, should I say, the Apple. Daniel and five other members of The WhoFarm environmental collective have just finished spending a week outside New York City's flagship Apple store waiting to buy the new iPhone 3G in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for "longest time waiting in line to buy something."


Although, the official record has now been updated to "longest time queing for a product launch," as, through conversations with Guiness staffers, the WhoFarmers sadly discovered that people waited longer in line for Star Wars tickets, and, in China, for train tickets. (You've got to wonder . . . train tickets to where?)

As previously reported in Treehugger, the new Apple iPhone has gotten greener. Instead of coming ensconced in a charming nest of Styrofoam, the 3G comes cushioned in potato starch paper trays made by PaperFoam—the Dutch company that also supplies packaging for Motorola. Is this a cause for cartwheels and jubilation? Clearly. Is it reason enough to wait outside in the rain and humidity for 7 days . . . including on the 4th of July? Hmm . . . .

But Daniel has not spent his week of waiting idly. As spokesman for The WhoFarm, his provocative statements to the press have been gaining the group attention, admiration, and, er, also some mockery.


The main stated goal of The WhoFarm is to convince the next President to turn the White House lawn—all 17 acres—into an organic farm. And, lest you think that is crazy, San Francisco City Hall is doing something similar. (Although, yes, ok, it's on a much smaller scale.)

Daniel resigned from his project management position with an environmental city agency a few months ago to start working on The WhoFarm project. In the meantime, he has become even more of an impassioned activist for spreading the gospel of organic farming and eating local. "We're here to restore the edible landscape," is how Daniel put it when he talked to Fortune magazine.

In a July 4th open letter, entitled "Waiting for Apples in the Big Apple," addressed to Steve Jobs, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor David Paterson, New York Senators Clinton and Schumer, as well as to all "the good people of New York State," The WhoFarmers announced: "We the people love Apples. Apple iPhones! The Big Apple! Apples grown locally in New York State!" The letter went on to enthusiastically list The WhoFarmers' plans:
"We will celebrate many elements of the New York City's PlaNYC 2030 sustainability agenda:
• We will spend a lot of time in a great public space, around the clock.
• We will use mobile solar power from Solar1.
• We will drink NYC's renowned tap water.
• We will have local healthy food (especially Apples) delivered by our community gardener friends, Greenmarket farmers, and locavore restauranteurs via bicycles and pedicabs.
• We will compost our foodscraps, to help sustain our fragile soil.
• And most importantly, we will talk to whoever happens to stop by about local organic farming as a critical element to sustainable healthy living, food security, youth education, and climate change mitigation."


And that is exactly what they did. When I stopped by the big glass Apple cube last night, ABC was interviewing Daniel for tv news. While there have been those in the press who saw The WhoFarmers' goal as "inane", the stunt has been seen by others as a genius 1960's style happening, that has used the iPhone launch as free PR to kick start a consciousness-raising non-profit.

But of course, it was not just all about publicity. The WhoFarm also got iPhones! Daniel bought one for himself, one for Barack Obama, and one for John McCain. (It should, though, be noted that Barack Obama already has an iPhone. And it should also be noted that if John McCain is anything like my similarly aged Republican father, it seems highly unlikely that he will ever take the time to figure out how to use an iPhone.)

So, was it worth it? Well, here's what Daniel and crew had to say: "We got to meet a lot of great people, and we really appreciated the 24/7 view of Manhattan. The people at Apple have been very nice to us, and even let us shower (well rinse off) in their bathrooms." And one of the farmers said that it had been the best experience of his life so far.


What do you think? Are public actions like these effective?

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