Right now, New York has a chance to pass the first Fair Repair bill in the nation. We have a chance to guarantee our right to repair electronics—like smartphones, computers, and even farm equipment. We have a chance to help the environment and stand up for local repair jobs—the corner mom-and-pop repair shops that keep getting squeezed out by manufacturers.
We’ve been working with local repair companies to come up with a solution. The Fair Repair Bill, known as S3998 in the State Senate and A6068 in the State Assembly, requires manufacturers to provide owners and independent repair businesses with fair access to service information, security updates, and replacement parts.
If you agree with us, find out who represents you in New York’s legislatures. Tell them you support the bipartisan Fair Repair bill, S3998 in the State Senate and A6068 in the State Assembly. Tell them that you believe repair should be fair, affordable, and accessible. Stand up for the right to repair in New York.
Note: you must be a resident of New York to submit a comment about this bill.
Electronics are making farm equipment harder to repair.
Kerry Adams, a family farmer in Santa Maria, California, found that out the hard way when he bought two transplanter machines for north of $100,000 apiece. They broke down soon afterward, and he had to fly a factory technician out to fix them.
TOOLS, MANUALS, AND PARTS ARE DIFFICULT TO COME BY.
Because manufacturers have copyrighted the service manuals, local mechanics can’t fix modern farming equipment. And today’s equipment—packed with sensors and electronics—is too complex to repair without them. That’s a problem for farmers, who can’t afford to pay the dealer’s high maintenance fees for fickle equipment.
Adams gave up on getting his transplanters fixed; it was just too expensive to keep flying technicians out to his farm. Now, the two transplanters sit idle, and he can’t use them to support his farm and his family.
GOD MAY HAVE MADE A FARMER, BUT COPYRIGHT LAW DOESN’T LET HIM MAKE A LIVING.
The National Grange agrees: “On behalf of over 200,000 members of the National Grange, we fully support the Right to Repair Act because we believe in an owner’s right to maintain, service, repair and rebuild their vehicle or farming equipment on their own accord or by the repair shop of their choice. Our members, most of them located in rural areas, value their ability and freedom to fix and repair their own vehicles, tractors and other farm equipment. Should they seek assistance elsewhere, local repair shops should have access to all necessary computer codes and service information in order to properly and efficiently make repairs.
“In addition, we believe that in the absence of the Right to Repair Act, many individuals, both rural and urban, would likely put off important vehicle repairs and maintenance, jeopardizing their safety and the safety of others on the road. It is also important to note that our members often farm and ranch in remote locations where repair shops are just not available. Days waiting on parts from dealers can mean missing crop target pricing, costing our members in agriculture a great deal of revenue.”
Oh, the good old days. With electronics these days you’re lucky if you get a dipstick!
Farmers are Fighting Back
More and more, farmers are turning to the internet to learn how to repair their complex equipment. They are turning to websites like iFixit to share techniques for maintaining equipment.
But it’s not enough.
WE NEED TO REQUIRE MANUFACTURERS MAKE EQUIPMENT FIELD-SERVICEABLE.
Join Farm Hack at the 2015 Draft Animal-Power Field Days!
September 24-27 in Cummington, MA.
Farm Hack will host a workshop session on Saturday from 1:30-3:00 as well as a weekend-long build project focused on integrating draft and human power into standard vegetable production systems. Event page here.
The Homesteader is a new draft-powered multi-tool by Amish equipment manufacturer, Pioneer. One unique feature of the Homesteader is a unique quick hitch which makes switching the belly-mounted tools a snap. Our goal is to adapt this quick hitch mechanism for use with the Culticycle, a pedal-powered cultivating tractor. Culticycle inventor Tim Cook will bring a Culticycle and several of the hand built tillage tools he’s been working on. See here for documentation of the Homesteader quick attach on Farm Hack.
Tractor-powered vegetable farms typically grow on a bed system that utilizes beds between 48″ and 60″ wide, growing most crops in multiple rows within the bed. Most horse-powered vegetable growers use a single-row system at 32-36″ spacing. This is because most horse-powered equipment available was designed for growing row crops such as corn. At the DAP Field Day, we will explore the possibility of adapting a single-row riding cultivator to fit the wider bed-system spacing, with the goal of improving space efficiencies in horse-powered operations, and allowing the easier integration of tractor and draft power within a single farming system.
There are three crucial components to adapt a single-row cultivator for wider beds. First, the cultivator wheel-base must be widened. The wheel base on most cultivators is already adjustable, typically from 34-42″ but the adjustable axle will have to be extended as well as a linkage at the front of the cultivator. Second, a wider evener and neck yoke will have to be built to spread the horses apart. Third, team lines will have to be configured to spread the horses apart. See the recent conversation about this topic on the Draft Animal Power Network forums.
As a result of the industrial revolution and the subsequent development of “big agriculture,” small-scale farming tools have become almost obsolete. In order to fulfill the demand created by a burgeoning community of small-scale farmers, Stone Barns Center has partnered with Barry Griffin, a design engineer, to develop farming equipment and tools. Called the Slow Tools Project, this partnership brings together leading engineers and farmers to design and build appropriately scaled tools that are lightweight, affordable and open-source.
They have identified 34 tools in need of development, beginning with a small electric tractor that will serve as the “motherboard” frame to which other tools can be attached. Other inventions to follow will be the solar-powered “Horse Tractor,” which could have a significant impact among cultures dependent on draft animals and where drought limits water availability, and a compressed-air grain harvester and processor.
In the summer of 2015, The Slow Tools Project will focus on the development of a Bed-Former/Shaper powered by a BCS walking tractor; a hug-wheel driven, walken behind electric tool carrier; a two-layer clear plastic blanket for field-scale soil solarizing; and a 30-inch wide stripper/header to harvest grain for poultry.
The Quadractor, manufactured in the 1970s and 1980s by Traction, Inc. in Vermont. The quadractor has a vertical shaft gear train originally developed by William Spence for using in aircraft landing gear, who designer of the Quadractor and founder of Traction, Inc. The tractor operates through four identical vertical drives to the wheels, and is therefore continuously in four wheel drive. This drive design allows for the lightweight Quadractor (around 500 lbs) to pull loads up to two tons.
Spence wanted to create a tractor that was lower cost and that used less fuel than conventional tractors with comparable workloads, and be highly dynamic (also that had really good traction, hence the company name he came up with). Though the tractor been used most extensively for logging, it can be used with cultivating, rototilling and plowing implements that are attached underneath the tractor rather than behind, the weight of which are distributed to all four wheels.
Though the quadractor is no longer being manufactured, there is a community of users restoring, retrofitting and using the quadractor for their small farming operations, homestead and woodlots. These users can exchange and dialogue on the tractor, modifications and implements through a user Forum. Specs and more information at www.quadractor.com.
Project is for: Farmers who need a flexible, multi-purpose, cultivating tool– most likely vegetable farmers.
Range of cost: $750 – $1500
Skills needed: Simple metalworking (welding steel, or finding someone who can); also available commercially with an Allis G belly mount from Roeter’s Farm Equipment, but their version may not be optimized for your application.
Summary: Tine weeders, like those built by Lely or Kovar, are often used on vegetable farms for cultivation of transplanted crops or sturdy direct seeded crops like corn and beans. Usually they are used “blind” (see video), raked over a crop while being pulled behind a tractor, and therefore their use is limited to those crops that can tolerate the “raking” action of the thin, flexible tines, spaced 1.5″ apart.
This project creates a version of the tine weeder that can be belly-mounted to a cultivating tractor, so that individual tines can be lifted up so as not to engage the soil. This allows the tool to be used in between rows of crops that cannot stand the raking, such as just-germinated small seeded crops like carrots, beets and greens.
This is a good tool for a smaller farm that cannot afford many different types of cultivators; it can be used for many different crops, however by itself it is not an ideal cultivator for all crops, since it is not aggressive enough to kill more tenuous weeds such as perennial grasses, velvetleaf, bindweed, or weeds that have established beyond a “white thread” stage. Horsepower requirements are very low.