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Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax
jo@listserv.ksu.edu

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Slow Tools for Small Farms and Home Gardens

by Zac Hoppenstedt, horticulture agent

Return to Vegetables Agent Articles

Hort agent Zac Hoppenstedt uses a 6-row seeder to plant carrot seedSlow food, slow money, slow farm … slow tools?

The global trend of revisiting “old-fashioned” techniques to enhance the sustainability of our economies, agriculture and diets has come to the small tool industry — especially those sold for farms and gardens.

Old tools finding new popularity in modern local foods movements

The slow tools movement is taking design and manufacturing concepts of the past (i.e., small and/or local production, built by craftspeople, hand and horse powered implements) to improve efficiency in the small market farms and homestead gardens that have become increasingly popular.

Slow tools better suited to today's smaller urban gardens and farms

Groups of engineers, farmers and general tinkerers are organizing to revive tools like the finger weeder, tilther (cordless drilled powered tiller), and precision push seeders more suited to the small garden scale.

Jack Algiere, farmer at Stone Barns Center in Hudson Valley, New York and trailblazer of their slow tools initiative says, “The problem is that there hasn’t been a set of tools for small-scale, diversified farms since 1940.” 

Tools for lower environmental impact

Slow tool broadfork in vegetable gardenTake the broadfork, for example. It’s a wide garden fork with long tines capable of breaking up deep compaction and aerating a raised garden bed with just gentle rocking motion. It’s also known as the “manual tiller”, and it’s gone through a serious resurgence in the small farm community over the last few years. This heavy-duty hand tool had fallen out of usage in favor of gas powered cultivators. But with the growing consideration for life in our soil food web, like the larger beneficial worms and fungi which are unnecessarily disturbed by more modern machines, the broadfork is now being widely adopted by farmers and gardeners alike.

The adulation for slow tools has been in large part to rock-star farmers/authors/inventors like Eliot Colman and Jean Martin Fortier, who actually named his Quebec farm after the broadfork (Les Jardins de la Grelinette). And the success of their farming methods has motivated low-emission tools to be sought after more and more for their effectiveness, ergonomics, and ingenious simplicity.    

Small Farm Equipment and Irrigation Workshop

Date: May 20

Time: 4 – 7pm

Location: Woodland City KC Urban Farm
1800 East 36th Street,
Kansas City, Missouri 64109

Fee: $15

Register online

If you want to learn more about the cutting edge and “old-timey” tools that are best suited to garden scale join this K-State’s Growing Growers workshop. This will include a field day at the Grown in Ivanhoe Market Gardens, in Kansas City, MO.

Participants will explore a vast array of farming equipment for small and medium-sized farms including those for field prep, planting, cultivation, harvesting, and overhead and drip irrigation systems. This workshop will help you put together a wish list of must-have tools; and provide a general overview of equipment maintenance, design and modification; as well as discuss big-picture infrastructure for productive farms and gardens.

This workshop will be hands-on and highlight the new community tool share program being offered by the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council and Grown in Ivanhoe. Attendees will get a chance to operate some of the slow tools as presenters demonstrate how to turn over a spring crop, prepare beds and plant summer crops. The right tools can really make all the difference in successful farm and gardens.

K-State Research and Extension Johnson County Master Gardener logo

Have questions? The Garden Hotline is staffed by trained EMG volunteers and Extension staff who will assist you with questions.

Phone: (913) 715-7050

Email: garden.help@jocogov.org