Imagine this: You have 500 seedlings to transplant. How long would it take? Do you have the right tools? Does your back start to hurt just thinking about it?
In the past, you might have needed to plant by hand or try and customize large farming equipment — if you could afford it. But, today, with tools like the Paperpot Transplanter from the well-known seed, plant, and tool supply company Johnny’s Seeds, you can plant 264 per minute without breaking your back or the bank. That means that in less than two minutes, your 500 seedlings will be in their new home.
With the rise of industrial farming since the 1960s, farm equipment grew larger, less efficient, and more expensive. But smaller farmers need smaller, more affordable equipment — something the market stopped offering over time. This put small farmers at a disadvantage.
Fortunately, those days are over, thanks to the people behind the Slow Tools Movement, which develops lightweight, small-scale tools to help small farmers grow without the investment and inefficiency of large industrial farming equipment. One of the people heavily involved in this movement is Adam Lemieux, Product Manager of Tools and Supplies at Johnny’s Seeds.
Lemieux’s goal is to make farming more efficient for fresh market growers. He tailors the Johnny’s Seeds product line around the “growing local” trend, offering products to extend the seasons — like tunnels and greenhouses — and tools to make growing affordable for new farmers.
So, what tools does Lemieux recommend for a beginner?
Obviously, that depends on what you want to grow. For your basic salad mix, he recommends these:
- Four-Row Pinpoint Seeder
- Seedbed Roller
- Farmer’s Friend’s Quick-Cut Greens Harvester
- Salad Spinner (you can even convert a washing machine for this)
Lemieux advises that you think about your tools as a system and craft the system that works best for you. “These tools work in concert together. Are you doing raised beds, or not? Are you doing 30” or 36” beds? That’s where it starts, because bed prep and cultivation tools are sized to that. They all need to fit your bed — and fit the crop,” he says.
Slow tools make growing more efficient, which means you’ll likely have more products you need to store before taking them to market. For this, Lemieux recommends the CoolBot, noting that small and new farms gravitate to the CoolBot because of its affordability.
“The CoolBot is great for the ‘grow local’ market and for the farmers who are just starting out,” he says. “Particularly in the summer, the farmers need a bigger space that stays cool.” (To learn how easy it is to build your own walk-in cooler using a CoolBot, check out this free guide.)
Lemieux also recommends that farmers focus on profitability, a theme echoed by Curtis Stone, aka The Urban Farmer. “If something’s not making money, don’t do it,” Lemieux says. “Learn from your mistakes — and from the mistakes of who came before you. It’s all about efficiency. At the end of the day, you have to make money.”
For farmers looking for growth and profit, Lemieux suggests a reading list that includes Jean-Martin Fortier’s The Market Gardener, Curtis Stone’s The Urban Farmer, and anything by organic farmer Eliot Coleman. You’ll also find expertly curated growing tips and articles at Johnny’s Seeds’ Grower’s Library.
If you’re interested in the Slow Tools Movement, you can join over 5,000 like-minded peers in the Slow Tools Group Page on Facebook. Lemieux also recommends you consider attending the Young Farmers Conference, which is hosted in Pocantico Hills, NY, every December.
And of course, don’t forget to check out what’s new over at Johnny’s Seeds. For a chance to speak with Lemieux inperson, attend one of the many farming events they attend each year.