Who would wait a week in line for an iPhone 3G?

July 5, 2008, 2:04 PM UTC

Heyward, Casey, Dane, Daniel and Kaitlin

Who’s crazy enough to camp out for a week on the streets of New York City for a chance to be first to buy an iPhone 3G?

TheWhoFarm, that’s who, a newly minted publicity-seeking environmental collective with an agrico-political mission: to persuade the 44th President of the U.S. — whoever that turns out to be — to transform the White House’s 17-acre lawn into an organic farm.

“We’re here to restore the edible landscape,” says Daniel Bowman Simon, 28, the group’s organizer and spokesperson and a young man given to making grand pronouncements. “We want to bring seeds of change back to the White House.”

Daniel and his supporters — there are 10 in town this week, but only five braved the rain that soaked the city overnight Friday —  want to set a new Guinness World Record for “longest time waiting in line to buy something.”

But that’s just a vehicle to get attention for their broader concerns — sustainability, affordable housing, energy security, locally-grown food (New York State apples are a big theme this week), and “eating right,” says Simon, “especially our leaders.”

In an open letter to several of those leaders — including Steve Jobs, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomburg — entitled “Waiting for Apples in the Big Apple,” the group lists the tasks it hopes to accomplish in the week they will spend camping out in front of the big glass cube of Apple’s (AAPL) New York City flagship store:

  • 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. (link)

And, oh yes, they hope to pick up some iPhones when they go on sale next Friday, July 11. Simon plans to buy three: one for Barack Obama, one for John McCain, and one for himself. “We see it as a technology that can liberate us from our desks,” he says.

UPDATE: Having stuck it out for seven days and seven nights, as promised, Simon was No. 1 in line at 8:00 a.m. Friday morning when the doors of the Apple Store opened. As he headed into the glass cube — carrying an American flag and a box of apples — he was intercepted by one of Apple’s security guards and frogmarched away from the entrance, toward 58th Street. You can see a video of the incident at Applauded — and roughed up — in the iPhone 3G line. He was eventually allowed to enter the store, escorted by a pair of uniformed cops.

Below the fold: meet the iPhone Five.

Daniel Bowman Simon, 28, born in Chicago, lives in Brooklyn. Got a BA from New York University in marketing and an MBA from the University of the Pacific. Was working for the Gaia Institute on a green roofs project when he was inspired by a speech by food activist Alice Waters. Formed an organization called Do The Right Things to encourage elected officials to lead by example — transportation commissioners riding bicycles to work, for example. Energetic and enthusiastic to a fault, he is the glue that holds TheWhoFarm together.

Casey Gustowarow, 26, from Annapolis, MD. Works on an organic farm 20 miles away, where he grows carrots, turnips, squash, cucumbers and lettuce mix for a collective of 120 CSA (community support agriculture) members. Met Simon in the Philippines, where they were both in the Peace Corps. Here he’s mixing a salad of locally grown spinach, mizuna greens, tomatoes, zephyr squash, purple peppers and New York state apples supplied by friends who bicycled them in from a nearby farmers market.

Heyward Gignilliat, 32, born in Gainesville, GA, lives in Boston (that’s a Boston Braves baseball cap he’s wearing, not a Red Sox hat). Teaches English as a second language at Northeastern University. He’s this close to getting his masters in teaching English at SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. Met Simon when they were both in Japan teaching English to elementary and junior high school students.

Dane Sjoblom, 31, from State College, PA. Lives in Maui, where he’s a land use planner. Studied cultural anthropology at SUNY Buffalo. In the fall he’s going to the University of Hawaii at Manoa to get a masters in urban planning. Like Heyward, met Simon teaching English in Japan. His wife Yumi and six-month-old daughter Athea Aina spent most of Friday in line. He was going to send them home when it started raining, but the New York City Police Department beat him to it.

Kaitlin, 22, from Simi Valley, CA. Has a political science degree from Humboldt State University. Interned for Congressman Mike Thompson of California’s 1st District. Met Simon through mutual friends and shared beliefs. “I have a little sister who has no idea where her food comes from,” she says. “Being connected to your food sources is like knowing who’s running your country and knowing how society works. I want kids like my baby sister to grow up in a world where they feel empowered.