#Journo100 Finalist: Hazel Sheffield of Nomad Media Collective

To highlight the wide diversity of journalism innovation projects proposed by our 100% Journalism finalists, we’re running short Q & As with our ten finalists.

Hazel SheffieldHazel Sheffield and five other recent grads of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism formed Nomad Media Collective, a group of international journalists based in New York City who collaborate on projects. Their 100% Journalism project would collect and organize data on farmers’ markets in New York City into a calendar and interactive map that consumers could access online or through a smartphone. “Organic food markets are ripe (groan) for investigative elements, which could include features on how ‘organic eggs’ are farmed or what pesticides we should really be worried about,” Sheffield wrote in her proposal.

“We could test different farmer’s produce against each other,” she adds. “Or follow a pumpkin from seed to table. Are retailers also growers? What is GM farming and why isn’t it labeled? As farmers markets grow in popularity, keeping track of them becomes more important.” They also hope to apply the model in other markets.

What follows is an excerpt from Ebyline’s recent conversation with Sheffield about her vision for the project.

What sparked your interest in covering farmers’ markets?

Well, we just thought it was an amazing opportunity to provide a resource that would really be impactful and useful to lots of people. It seems like there’s a huge explosion of interest and a huge market for green markets but there doesn’t at the moment seem like there’s a service that provides information on what people are buying or who the farmer is. They’re paying hugely different prices, so we feel it’s a great opportunity to help people out when they want to get fresh produce and they want to know what day of the week they can get it and where’s closest.

What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge of the project?

Well, I think the great thing about this competition is that there’s an army of freelancers to do the groundwork. I think the biggest challenge may be to keep maintaining it as a service. It would have to be something that people keep on top of and journalists would verify information from farmers. It’s a simple thing that hasn’t been done yet.

 Anything else you’d like readers to know about the project?

It’s a huge opportunity to provide a service to a market that’s growing. We hope it will be something that’s really useful for the consumer and farmers, too, because it would help them communicate more effectively. At the moment, it’s often very hard to know what you’re buying or whether you’re getting what you paid for. I’m really excited about the fact that this is something that’s happening in lots of cities in the US.

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About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer whose work appears in Bankrate.com, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, MediaBistro.com, Parade Magazine, and SELF, among other places. She is the author of The Urban Muse Guide to Online Writing Markets and blogs at The Urban Muse.