iPhones and sustainable agriculture don't have a lot in common, but a bedraggled group of publicity-seekers and iPhone enthusiasts who want the next U.S. president to plant an organic farm on the White House lawn have connected the two as a reason to line up for Friday's iPhone 3G launch.
Led by a fresh-faced sprite called Daniel Bowman Simon -- who looks more likely to be driving his father's SUV than getting his hands dirty hoeing a row of seeds -- Waiting for Apples' mission is to encourage people to grow their own food while setting a Guinness World Record for the most time spent waiting in line to buy something.
The group also wants to promote The White House Organic Farm Project, which is taking names for a petition to inspire the next president to plant an organic farm at the White House, the official residence of the U.S. president.
A few members of Waiting for Apples have been camped out in front of New York City's flagship Apple Store on Fifth Avenue since Friday morning, fortified by stacks of organic produce that a friend is delivering to them via bicycle from the Union Square Greenmarket.
A Solar-powered generator courtesy of SolarOne, a green energy, arts and education center in New York, also is making the group's mission more comfortable. On Monday the generator was powering an iPod blasting the record "More Songs about Buildings and Food" by the Talking Heads, as a barefoot Simon and co-conspirator Heyward Gignilliat fielded questions from passers-by on a humid day under threatening thunderclouds.
"We are trying to bring interest and promotion to local and organic agriculture," Simon said in an interview, trying to explain Waiting for Apples' mission while posing for a photo with a stalk of fresh basil and an American flag.
Or, as Gignilliat put it, "We think it's a good idea to grow food," he said. "It's just a good thing." His demeanor and manner of speaking suggested he may support not only growing plants, but also smoking them. They also had with them a "Worm Condo," which is a compost heap, complete with worms, in -- of all things for an environmental group -- what appeared to be a plastic box.
Neither Gignilliat nor Simon had a concrete answer for explaining the link between 3G iPhones and sustainable agriculture. But Simon saw an opportunity to use the launch of a highly anticipated product -- of which he also happens to be a fan -- as a way to generate attention for his cause.
Gignilliat also said the multimedia functionality of the iPhone makes it possible for the group to conduct a mass promotional campaign from the street outside an Apple Store because group members are able to stay connected to their e-mail and the Internet.
"It makes all this possible," said Gignilliat, gesturing to the group's Fifth Avenue camp, which he joked was the headquarters for the campaign.
Waiting for Apples' stunt calls to mind last year's Keep a Child Alive campaign, which called for the first person to buy the very first iPhone at New York's SoHo store to sell their iPhone on eBay to support the charitable effort.
To accompany its line-sitting campaign, Waiting for Apples also outlined its mission on its Web site in an "open letter" to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and "the Good People of New York State," among others.
"We have come from all parts of the country, and even from abroad, to set a new record for longest time waiting in line to stimulate the economy of NYC," the group wrote. "We could have set this record anywhere, and on anything. But, we heart NYC, the Big Apple. And we love Apples grown in and near NYC. So, what more nourishing place than right across from Central Park, the 'lungs' of New York City."
The group also said it will celebrate New York City's PlaNYC 2030 sustainability agenda by doing things like spending "a lot of time in a great public space, around the clock" and drinking New York's "renowned tap water."'
In addition to promoting sustainable agriculture and trying to set a world record, Simon and Gignilliat do also plan to buy 3G iPhones. And not just for themselves -- Simon said he is buying one each for U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.
However, when asked, he didn't seem to have a very clear idea how he might actually ensure the devices get into the candidates' hands or how giving them iPhones would help promote The White House Organic Farm Project.
The 3G iPhone is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. and various other countries at 8 a.m. local time Friday.