By Mary Ellis
On May 22nd, both beginning and experienced farmers gathered for CFAC’s Field-Tested Tool Expo. Farmers often learn best from other farmers and this workshop provided producers a chance to see new tools in action, hear from farmers who have tested them in the field, and try them out themselves.
The event was held at County Rail Farm, located just outside of Huson, MT, owned and operated by farmer Tracy Potter-Fins. Tracy generously let us use her farm to test out a wide variety of tools. Several of the tools showcased at the workshop were purchased through CFAC’s Field Tested Mini-Grants, funded by the Montana Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. These grants provide farmers with funds of up to $5,000 to purchase equipment to help enhance their operation.
The day started with a discussion led by Josh Volk on what to consider when making tool system decisions. Josh Volk runs Slow Hand Farm in Portland, OR and he also provides consulting services to farmers on how to design their own efficient and effective systems. Before the group dispersed to test out new tools, Josh asked participants to consider if they could see a tool working for them and what could make it better.
Participants got a chance to walk around to eight different stations and see innovative tools and equipment in action. The lineup for the event included:
- Walk Behind Tractor demoed by County Rail Farm staff
- Allis Chalmers G Electric Conversion Tractor demoed by Karl Sutton of Fresh Roots Farm
- Paper Pot Transplanter demoed by Mary Bricker of SweetRoot Farm
- Multi-row Jang Seeder demoed by Katie Madden of Missoula Grain and Vegetable Co.
- Backpack Flame Weeder demoed by Tracy Potter-Fins of County Rail Farm
- Double Wheel Hoe and Silage Tarps demoed by Mary Bricker and Noah Jackson of Sweet Root Farm
- Seed Screens demoed by Leslie Kline of Good Egg Farm
- Greens Harvester and Drying Methods demoed by Tracy Potter-Fins of County Rail Farm
During each demonstration, participants got to see how the tool worked and then try it out for themselves. At the end of each demonstration, farmers got the chance to discuss the benefits and challenges of each tool and brainstorm ways to improve it.
In one of the demonstrations, Tracy Potter-Fins of County Rail Farm showed attendees how to use the flame weeder to effectively kill weeds before planting, giving their seedlings a head start. Josh Volk shared how he uses the flame weeder to kill weeds in his garlic fields since monocot plants (like garlic, onions, and corn) can handle the heat from the flames, making weed control a lot easier during a busy season!
Farmers also got to try out a drill powered salad greens harvester and a paper pot transplanter. Both these tools are meant to help farmers plant and harvest more quickly, which is essential for busy small-scale farmers.
The day ended with Josh leading a discussion on the benefits and challenges of each of the tools, and how farmers could adjust them to work for their operation.
If you didn’t get to join us for this event, there are many more opportunities to learn from local farmers this summer. Our Farmer Field Day series gives experienced farmers the chance to share their skills and knowledge with a new generation of producers. Join us on June 19th at Harts Garden for our first official Farmer Field Day of the season and learn some new things! Visit our Events Page for even more opportunities to learn and get involved!