As a small farmer, you know too well that there’s never enough time or money to do all of the things you need to do. So, you need solutions that help you do more with less. Here are 10 tools, systems, and processes to help you be more efficient on your farm.
1. Mechanize your planting
Chances are you’ve seeded a row crop by hand at one point or another. Tough work, right? With a row crop planter, you can cut the work considerably — and you’ll end up with straight rows of seedlings all growing at the same time. Use an Earthway row crop planter to plant sweet corn, radish, leeks, spinach, and much more.
2. Mechanize your harvesting
Harvesting greens by hand is just as labor intensive as planting them! That’s why Jonathan Dysinger invented the Quick Cut Greens Harvester. It harvests up to an incredible 175 lbs greens per hour and it only takes a single person. You’ll save a ton of time.
3. Spin your salad
When you need to harvest, wash, dry, and bag greens quickly, every minute counts. That’s where a 5-gallon (or bigger) salad spinner comes in handy. The Dynamic Salad Spinner is as affordable as they come (without making your own), and you can manually spin dry up to eight heads of lettuce at once.
4. Flame your weeds
Weeds happen. But don’t let them take time away from actually growing and harvesting your crops. Instead, invest in a flame weeder. This tool burns emerging weeds with a small flame, causing enough damage at the cellular level to prevent further growth. Check out the Red Dragon Backpack Flame Weeder.
5. Accelerate your compost
Shorten organic decomposition time with a compost accelerator. Saltwater Farms’ accelerator powder contains billions of microbes, bran, and seaweed that feed your compost pile and encourage it to break down organic matter faster. Bonus: when you add compost to your beds, it automatically increases water holding capacity, which reduces water use.
6. Plant cover crops
In addition to compost, cover crops are a great way to build your soil’s fertility without chemicals. Need more nitrogen in your soil? Plant clover. Need to break up compacted clay in your beds? Plant a grass, like winter rye. Cover crops help you save water to boot.
7. DIY a walk-in tunnel
A hoophouse is great for four-season growing. But if you don’t need or can’t afford one quite yet, a DIY walk-in tunnel will do the trick. Depending on the growing season in your area, the biggest benefit of a walk-in tunnel is starting crops earlier in the season and growing them later. It also protects crops from insects and disease. Here’s how to DIY a “good enough” walk-in tunnel.
8. Optimize your irrigation system
Unless you’re harvesting rainwater, you’re paying for water usage on your property. Obviously, water usage is crucial for growing crops — but do you need as much as you’re currently using?
Think of a drip irrigation system as a water delivery system customized to the plant’s needs. Not only does it send water straight to the roots, it also produces less runoff and evaporation. This saves you both money and water waste.
9. Invest in a good tractor
Yes, a tractor is a considerable upfront expense — a BCS America tractor ranges between $1,000 and $5,000. However, if you’re planting and replanting throughout the season, let a tractor take the brunt of the work — not your back.
10. Upgrade your cold storage
Finally, how would you like to harvest crops when both you and they are ready, rather than just right before market? One of the easiest ways to make your small farm more efficient is by upgrading your postharvest cold storage using a CoolBot controller or CoolBot Pro and an air conditioner. Both will keep your produce at a cool 38°F to 40°F, save you money, and are super easy to set up. The CoolBot Pro is WiFi enabled, allowing you to remotely monitor your cooler and receive critical alerts if your cooler gets too hot or too cold or if your cooler loses power. Peace of mind for $0.13 a day. Check out how it works and see some coolers in action.
Have you tried these solutions? Do you have any other favorites that you’d add to the list? Leave us a comment below.