Pedal-Powered Tillage for a Small Community-Supported Farm (CSA)

Final Report for FNE96-129

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 1996: $2,400.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1996
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $4,100.00
Region: Northeast
State: Connecticut
Project Leader:
Megan Haney
Mad Mares Farm
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Project Information

Summary:

Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE96-129

Ms. Haney raises herbs, flowers, and vegetables with her two partners on a one-acre parcel in New Haven, Connecticut. Their operation is strictly organic. They are disinclined to use gasoline-powered equipment on aesthetic grounds, and also because of the implied reliance on a non-renewable energy source, and on professional expertise for repairs. They have been tilling by hand, but this is hard, time-consuming work, and animal traction is impractical on so small a plot. They heard about experiments done at Rodale some years ago, involving use of a modified, stationary bicycle to pull a tillage implement over the field, and wanted to give this a try.

Ms. Haney and her colleagues mounted a bicycle on a fixed support, and removed the rear wheel but left the sprocket and axle. The latter was attached to a boat winch. The cable on the winch was drawn out across the field, and hooked to a tillage implement. Someone could then sit on the bicycle and by pedaling, pull the implement across the field. They later built a more powerful device for two, and experimented with several tillage implements.

Findings: They found that the one-person machine could be pedaled with no great difficulty by anyone weighing at least 160 lbs.; lighter people experienced some difficulty. The two-person device worked very well; Ms. Haney even describes it as “fun.” They were able to turn over the soil in a bed many times faster than is possible by hand digging.

They were less successful finding a suitable tillage implement to work with this system. The disks, plowshares, and rotary hoes they essayed tended to ride high, and did not incorporate well their amendments of manure and compost. They continue, however, to have faith in the potential of this system, provided a suitable tillage implement can be devised.

Cooperators

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  • Bill Duesing

Research

Participation Summary
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.