Steve, our Farm Manager wanted to post some more detail for those who are interested in where the fundraiser money will be spent, and why.
A two-wheel, walk-behind tractor is enabling for us in that it can do so much work in so little time. For example, to prepare one garden bed for seeding or transplanting, it takes about 15 minutes using hand tools. This is after broadforking and amending the bed. The walk-behind tractor, equipped with the power harrow, can make one pass and leave a perfect seed bed in approx 2 minutes (if that).
Especially in spring, there are short spans of time in between rain events when we have anywhere from 5-25 beds to prep for seeding and planting – we can get far more done with a tractor. During the season, as one crop is done and we need to prepare for the next, we also have limited time between all the maintenance (keeping up with weeds, grass mowing, etc.) and harvesting almost every day. We will be able to get more food in the ground during more of the growing season. And, the time savings also frees us up to do other tasks and it allows us to treat the soil as best we can by working it only when it’s prime.
Here’s what we are looking into and why:
R2 Rinaldi 30” Power Harrow
We are primarily interested in the Power Harrow in this purchase. Why is this? The power harrow is not a new tool. However, it is fairly new to the United States small scale sustainable agriculture scene. Farmers abroad have been using them for decades. Same thing with the walk behind tractor. We want the power harrow because it is less disruptive to the structure and therefore health of our soils. We typically till as little as we can. This is partially because we don’t own a decent tiller, but mostly to not damage the soil structure, which includes vital earthworm habitat. Earthworms are vital to our bio-intensive growing practices. Rototilling deeply also stirs up weed seeds and causes more work when these germinate and compete with our crops. The power harrow tills on a different axis than a rototiller – rather than inverting and chopping vertically, the power harrow essentially stirs the soil horizontally. It also has a roller on the back that helps level and slightly tamp the soil. Both actions aid in preparing the garden bed for direct seeding. Here’s a link to an article about the power harrow.
Berta Rotary Plow
The rotary plow is an amazing tool. Out of any of these, this is really the powerhouse. No other tool can do as much work quickly as this can compared to what we could do by hand. We have typically started “opening up” a new site by hand. Digging through the grass and rocks and weeds with shovels, mattock, digging forks, broadforks, you name it. We don’t go as far as “double-digging” which is a time-honored bed preparation method. But we do dig deep so that most any bed in our garden can be well drained, fluffy, amazing soil that can accommodate carrots growing deeply as well as lettuces closer to the surface. The rotary plow spins soil horizontally, creating a trench or a furrow and not compacting the area directly under the plow. Traditional moldboard plows completely invert the soil where the rotary plow spins it sideways.
Why a rototiller, if the power harrow is so great? The rototiller has been around for decades too, and has certainly been put to good use. It definitely has its place in the garden. For us, it will primarily be an initial cultivation tool for new site prep and for use in areas with poorer soil that needs compost and other amendments worked farther into the soil to improve it. Sometimes you want to invert and disrupt the soil when it is heavy clay and needs far more organic matter to be stellar garden soil. The problem with a rototiller is overuse. Repeated use multiple times a year, year to year is bad for soil structure and therefore health. Coupled with the rotary plow and broadfork, the rototiller can do less damage and avoid hardpan compaction beneath the tines. We might put off purchasing a tiller initially save money, but it would be a good addition to our list of tools.
The actual two-wheeled tractor matters less than the implements. But getting the right tractor for those implements and for our space is important. We’ve tried a BCS 852 and a Grillo 107d. The 852 is great machine, but is a bit more cumbersome and larger in dimension than the Grillo. Price is certainly a factor and Grillo tends to be a bit less expensive and better features for the money. The company has been around for longer than BCS and most of the BCS line is essentially based on Grillo. And, Grillo is Italian for cricket, which is a great name.
A portion of the funds will also be used to install necessary security hardware to guard this expensive piece of equipment and all implements against theft. (Which can, unfortunately, be a problem in Franklinton.)
And that’s it! We welcome questions if you have them. Otherwise, please contribute!