Farm Hack Newsletter: Welcome to the shiny new Farm Hack tool library!

Shiny New Tool Library at farm hack.org!

After receiving a SARE grant in partnership with UVM this past spring to improve functionality of our Tool documentation platform, this summer has been a big web development push for Farm Hack.  We have just launched a re-design of the Tools section of the website. The new version is intended to make both documenting tools and finding the tool you are looking for easier and more effective.

New Tool Library Features:

  • New look!
  • Smartphone and tablet friendly
  • Improved Tool Search functionalities
  • Easier documentation process
  • New “like” and “I have built this” buttons on tool pages

Farm Hack @ Ruskin Mill Video (Gloucestershire, UK)

New Farm Hack Network Calendar

The new Calendar page integrates Farm Hack events as well as other events hosted by other  the Northeast Food Knowledge Ecosystem (NEFKE) coalition.

Event Report: Culticycle @ the Draft Animal Powered Field Days

Culticycle enthusiasts and teamsters convened at the Draft Animal Powered Field Days in September, hosted by the Draft Animal Power Network to discuss the intersection of human and draft powered farming systems and tools. What type and amount of power is needed for different tools or tasks on the farm, and how can draft or human-powered systems supplant fossil fuel-powered ones? These questions embody the first design principle of the Farm Hack community, “Biology before steel and diesel.”

Most equipment manufacturers stopped building tools for horse and oxen farming around the middle of the 1900s. Farmers who wish to continue farming with draft animals innovate and invent tools appropriate for their purposes…..keep reading on the Farm Hack Blog

Get More Involved with Farm Hack

Developers
We are always looking for developers to join in on current and future projects. We meet weekly through Google Hangout on Thursday evenings. Contact info@farmhack.net if you want to join the call.

Documenters
There are heaps of useful tools out in the world that don’t exist on farm hack! Know some tools or some inventive farmers? Reach out to help them document! Then follow the steps on the Add a Tool page.

Event Organizers
Do you want to host a Farm Hack in your area? It’s not so hard with some help from local partners, farmers and Farm Hack’s Event Organizing wiki.

On the Blog:

Hand labor, tractor labor and horse labor: a question of power and scale

Peter & Jelmer with the Melotte

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By Jelmer Albada

This article appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of the Small Farmer’s Journal (Vol. 39 No. 2). Thank you to Jelmer Albada and Stephen Leslie for providing access to the text in digital form.

When considering the potential utility of draft animal power on the modern 21st century farm, I like to begin from the perspective of examining those farm models where all the work was done by hand. That hand work was done with a lot of care and precision and with great attention to detail towards the soil and the crops (these methods persist in our times in small scale community gardens and among some subsistence farmers). I have heard about, read about, and also have first-hand experience practicing these cultural gardening techniques involving hand labor and find it useful and inspiring to use these methods as a springboard from which to examine where draft animal power can be most useful and where the hand work can readily be improved upon. My conclusion is that there are many areas where a horse can do a better job in replacing the hand work, and that live horse power will usually not be ”over-kill”, as could be the case by introducing a tractor into a relatively small-scale operation. In this light, the horse could be viewed as a four-legged employee of the farm, always ready to take on the big and small jobs.

What I am saying in other words, is that there are different methods to the goal of an efficient system that stewards the soil, harvests healthy crops, and does not over-tax the human labor…Keep reading on the Farm Hack blog

Culticycle at the DAP Field Days: Cross-pollination and appropriate technology in farming systems

Horse People and Bike People
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Culticycle enthusiasts and teamsters convened at the Draft Animal Powered Field Days in September, hosted by the Draft Animal Power Network to discuss the intersection of human and draft powered farming systems and tools. What type and amount of power is needed for different tools or tasks on the farm, and how can draft or human-powered systems supplant fossil fuel-powered ones? These questions embody the first design principle of the Farm Hack community, “Biology before steel and diesel.”
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Most equipment manufacturers stopped building tools for horse and oxen farming around the middle of the 1900s. Farmers who wish to continue farming with draft animals innovate and invent tools appropriate for their purposes. It’s the classic narrative that defines the farm hack community: we want tools suited to ecological, human-scale agriculture, not industrial agribusiness. Local manufacture and on-farm research and development allow farmers to equip themselves with tools for their specific working environment and set of circumstances. 
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This design philosophy was brought to bear at the Draft Animal Power Field Days where tools cross-pollinated during guided brainstorming sessions. The new front end for the culticycle is hacked from a lawn tractor front end. The quick hitch system which Tim and Dorn are currently adapting for use on the Culticycle is an idea borrowed from the Pioneer Homsteader, a draft-powered multi-tool.  Old standby tool features can also be improved upon using a new component to perform a familiar function – for example, in recent Culticycle development conversations, the Farm Hack community is looking to handpowered hydraulics and auto trunk struts as alternatives for more ergonomic lifting of heavy, belly-mounted tools.
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Towards an Appropriately-Powered Farming Future
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 In the interest of minimizing our reliance on fossil fuels and developing more flexible and efficient farming systems, identifying what the actual appropriate power need for a job is allows us to develop and use the right power source – i.e. a human, a bicycle, a horse.
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Culticycle inventor, Tim Cooke, often makes the point that we just don’t know how much horsepower cultivating takes because we default to using the smallest tractor on the farm, which still might be vastly overpowered for the task. This insight connects to a broader principle galvanizing Farm Hackers; that innovation often stems from looking critically at the way things are and the way they are always done, and synthesizing from a rich repetoire of knowledge new and old to figure out how to do things better. 
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More documentation updates to come soon on the Culticycle tool page.
More Farm Hack events on the Events Calendar
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Farm Hack @ Draft Animal-Power Field Days, Sept 24-27 in Cummington, MA

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.

Project #1:

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.

Project #2:

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.