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Top tools for small scale farmers

As the popularity of small-scale farms has increased, micro farms have popped up across Indianapolis and the state.

A group of farmers gathered to talk about their farms, and the tools they use to farm on a smaller scale, as part of the Beginning Farmer Tour put on by Purdue Extension.

They shared stories about their farms and what tools they favor.

Nathan Hill, manager

Fitness Farm

Tell me about your farm.

I manage Fitness Farm, a unique place that’s a non- profit on the northwest side of Indianapolis. It started out as a summer camp for kids to get them more active. They came from challenging backgrounds and neighborhoods that don’t always have access to healthy food and activity. We had a small garden and we’ve slowly grown into a small farm.

What is a tool that you use frequently on your small farm?

We use tarps throughout the year. We have multiple successions going on. There’s a baby, medium-sized and harvestable beds of different varieties of greens. Tarps become a really important management tool in that situation, mainly because it buys you time.

As farmers, you’re really short on time and capital. This knocks out both of those things. It’s a cheap option to cover ground, smother weeds and get control of the space.

We’ll go in, prep a bed, add amendments and cover it with a tarp for three to five days. What happens is, any weed seeds that are in the bed will be germinated by the high moisture content and darkness.

After you pull the tarp back it’s ready to be flame weeded. It’s a cheap way to manage weeds. It doesn’t completely kill all the weeds, but it greatly reduces the weed pressure.

Amy Matthews, owner

South Circle Farm

Tell me about your farm.

South Circle Farm is a small, market farm. We grow vegetables and small fruits and sell to two farmers markets, a few restaurants and some small retail grocers in town.

What is a tool that you use frequently on your small farm?

I’m in my sixth year of farming, and the tools I use now aren’t what I started out using. I started using a green harvester fairly recently. The power for this tool is a drill.

The process starts at bed prep. This works best if your bed prep has been thorough. If there aren’t weeds and you’ve flattened the bed top and have a nice perfect stand, it works best.

Make sure you’re cutting at the right stage. If it’s too small or big you can still do it, but not as well. When you’re in the field, go through and position it in the right place so it’s in the soil and you’re not cutting leaves in half.

I have buckets staged in the field and drop it in. Cleaning it is pretty easy. We’ve used it every week for a year and haven’t had problems.

Michael O’Donnell, farmer and Extension educator

Delaware County

Tell me about your farm.

The name of our farm is Pinehurst Farm. We raise vegetables on a half-acre. We never fill the whole half acre at a given time, it’s under rotation. We have two small high tunnels that are moveable. We also raise pasture poultry and process them on the farm. It varies from 200 to 300 birds throughout the year.

What is a tool that you use frequently on your small farm?

I use a walk-behind tractor. It’s self-powered and self-propelled. It has multiple interchangeable implements. Many of them have reversible handles, making it extremely versatile.

For smaller farms, they can be attractive in terms of capital investment and the scale you can work at. They are easy to maintain and service, and they have a long life. You can work soil, mow, remove snow, haul, spray and other activities.

There’s kind of this renaissance of walk-behind tractors in the U.S. because a lot of books, like The Market Gardener, showing the utility of the tractor on successful farms. Think about your scale, logistics and your enterprise before buying. Options are quite limited for walk-behind tractors in the U.S.

(Source – http://agrinews-pubs.com/Content/Default/Indiana-News/Article/Top-tools-for-small-scale-farmers-/-3/79/15251)


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