Farmer-Built No-Welding Root Washer for Small Farmers

Final Report for FNC14-975

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $13,892.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


PROJECT DESCRIPTION Typically rare or expensive, a root washer for vegetable farmers will be constructed, documented, and plans open-sourced via in-person field days and on the web in text and video at   DESCRIPTION OF FARM OR RANCH AND PROJECT COORDINATOR BACKGROUND Grant Schultz, VersaLand Farm VersaLand Farm is a 145 acre diverse farm consisting of 2 acres of vegetable crops, 8 acres of small fruits, 35 acres of forest farming, and 100 acres of pasture and hay. A mix of rolling hills and flat prairie soils, topography and crop diversity are significant.   Jean Donohue, Hue Hill Farm Hue Hill Farm is a 35-member CSA and market farm. The farm is 40 total acres, with 2.5 acres in intensive vegetable production and the balance pollinator habitat, pasture, and timber.   Royce Schintler, Fox Hill Farm Fox Hill Farm is an 80 acre family farm one mile from Iowa City. 1 acre of vegetables in active vegetable production will grow to 3 over the next year.   PROBLEM/SOLUTION Vegetable farmers in the Midwest, especially beginning farmers, are often undercapitalized. Being financially incapable of purchasing modern equipment that provides harvest and processing efficiency only exacerbates the gap in profitability between small and large producers. This grant proposal aims to solve this problem.   Sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology go hand-in-hand. Every farmer at any scale should have access to the best tools and techniques available. The open-source movement in software has helped development and operational costs become accessible to all. We are adopting similar methodology to opensource designs and construction techniques for tools that farmers need.   A commercially-built barrel style root washer can cost a farmer $2,500-3,500. Our prototype root washer can be built for $500 or less when using common or recycled components. Through this grant, we will produce plans and video tutorials, allowing any farmer to confidently create a high-grade root washer at low cost.   Timeline Outreach Awareness – Young Farmers Conference MOSES Mount Horeb, WI April 5, 2014 Root Washer TEST Build Day 1 day   May 1, 2014 Root Washer Plans PDF – Post to Farm Hack   June 14 2014 Root Washer Build – Field Day MOSES           1 day  July 1 2014 Root Washer Build – Field Day Practical Farmers        1 day  July 1 2014 Begin Video Editing     7 days  July 2 2014 Root Washer Build Video Edit Complete – post to Farm Hack August 1 2014 Outreach The information produced in “Farmer-built No-Welding Root Washer for Small Farmers” will be shared via multiple channels: Web: plans and videos distributed 40,000-and-counting unique annual visitors in 2013, 1,000 registered farmers, 80+ tools shared   National Young Farmers Coalition: 8,000+ email listserv Greenhorns: 16,000 email listserv farm blog + YouTube channel: 1,000 uniques/month SARE outreach Field Days: in-person live builds MOSES field day: 40+ participants Practical Farmers of Iowa field day: 25+ participants   PREVIOUS RESEARCH Previous SARE grants occupying the same spirit of “Self-built Tools and Equipment for Small Farmers” include Nigel Tudor’s “Farmer Built Spelt Dehuller” and “Farmer Built Compost Turner” and Ron Khosla’s “Allis G Electric Conversion”.   The innovative work unique to this project relates to “lowest barriers of entry possible”: 1) No welding required. No advanced fabrication skills necessary. 2) Video build documentation. Farmers will be able to “see” the construction process regardless of their location in the world.   Other resources: The applicants unique relationship with the user community brings additional access to media, distribution, and technical resources for production of open-source farmer-built tools and equipment.   EVALUATION Evaluation Criteria:   Environmental: Does the construction and use of these tools create more or less material use than a commercial model? Does the embedded energy differ from a commercially-sourced model of equipment? Ongoing maintenance costs?   Economic: How does farmer-built equipment compare in financial capital costs to commercially purchased equipment? In ease-of-use? Is labor economy increased or decreased by using machinery over hand-methods?   Social: Does farmer-built machinery build social fabric and community resilience in the same manner as a barnraising? Are skills shared among neighbors in ways they otherwise may not be?   Data Collection: A standardized evaluation survey will be created for distribution and return at all outreach events, in addition to an identical web-distributed survey. All data will be compiled and openly shared for a transparent feedback loop.



Design, prototyping, refinement, plans and documentation, and field day demonstrations of a No-Welding Root Washer were all completed in 2014.

The innovative work unique to this project relates to "lowest barriers of entry possible":

1) No welding required. No advanced fabrication skills necessary.

2) Build documentation. Farmers will be able to "see" the construction process regardless of their location in the world.


Project Objectives:


During summer 2014, several low-cost root washers were constructed, CAD plans created, photos and videos shared, and the entire body of work shared with the public via a series of Field Days and posting to  See:




Materials and methods:

The root washer was built using common dimensional lumber and hardware, and electric motors and roller chain available as stock items at most farm supply stores.

The focus on simplistic engineering made the build an attainable goal for farmers without knowledge or skill in welding or access to machine tools.

Research results and discussion:

A no-welding root washer was successfully designed, prototyped, and refined.  Plans were open-sourced to the internet, and several subsequent builds have been completed by both individuals and "group build" events in the USA and Canada as a result of outreach on

Impact of Results/Outcomes

Root Washer 4_1_0 Root Washer 1_1_0 Root Washer 2_1_0 Root Washer 3_1_0 Root Washer 4_1_0 Root Washer 2_1_0 Root Washer Drawings Page 001_0_0 Root Washer 1_1_0 Root Washer Drawings Page 014_0_0 Root Washer Drawings Page 013_0_0 Root Washer Drawings Page 012_0_0 Root Washer Drawings Page 011_0_0 Root Washer 3_1_0

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Project Outcomes


Potential Contributions

The potential of this plan set and its specific methodologies will further future contributions of other farm tools to the Open Source movement.

Specifically, building efficient tools has been demonstrated with common and off-the-shelf materials and built using basic hand tools.  Seeing this done once gives others confidence to emulate for their own goals.

Future Recommendations

Encourage facilitated "group build" days for future projects.  One participant at a field day held at Versaland went on to lead a collaborative group build of 14 root washers for different vegetable farms in their home area.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.