- Head Lettuce
- Summer Squash
- Collard Greens
- Fava Beans
So how is it that two people can grow six acres of produce, providing hundreds of people with fresh produce each week? It’s a question that we get quite often, and it’s one with a fairly straightforward answer: We use tools and machines. There are very few things on the farm that we do completely by hand.
Our practicing philosophy is not nose to the grindstone, but instead is something like: find a better way. This is not to say that we do not work long hours or that our work is not arduous, but that we try to use tools and machines that leverage our efforts so that our time spent “toiling” in the fields is more effective.
That’s the reason why we took out a loan for equipment this spring. There were areas of our operation where we’re not as effective as we needed to be in order to manage the amount that we were growing. Fertilizer spreading was one of them. This task was done with a tiny hopper mounted on our Farmall Cub tractor. When fertilizing, we could only cover one row at a time, and had to refill the hopper every two rows. This meant jumping off of the tractor, walking over to the truck, grabbing another bag of fertilizer, cutting the bag open, dumping it into the hopper (at shoulder height), hopping back on the tractor, fertilize another bed, and repeat.
This week we completed the fertilizer spreader that we began building this spring (you may remember seeing pictures of me welding on it earlier this year). It can fertilize up to three rows at a time and has a capacity of about 25 bags of fertilizer. Last week I fertilized all of our dry corn and dry beans with the new spreader. This task, which took me over 4 hours with the small hopper was completed in just over an hour. This is exactly the kind of efficiency that we aim for.
Mechanization is a slippery slope, and we try to remind ourselves regularly that a high level of mechanization is not necessary to grow food— even for lots of people. A person can grow a lot of food with a few simple tools. However, mechanization is necessary for a farm like ours to make enough money to pay the bills. The push to mechanize and produce more is an economic pressure; an artifact of our industrial society and not one of physical necessity.
With this in mind, we try to use an appropriate level of mechanization, using tools and machines that are appropriate for the task as well as for the physical and social reality that we live in.
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!