Scaling Up Production by Improving Worker Comfort and Efficiency in No-till Organic Seed Garlic Production System

Project Overview

FNC10-799
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $3,705.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Daniel Perkins
Perkins' Good Earth Farm

Annual Reports

Information Products

Commodities

  • Vegetables: garlic

Practices

  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: mulching - vegetative
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health

    Summary:

    Scaling Up Production by Improving Worker Comfort and Efficiency in minimum-till Organic Seed Garlic Production System.

    Design and fabricate a planting, weeding, and harvesting cart that reduces stooping, crawling and kneeling in a minimum, hand-planted organic seed garlic production system.

    Introduction:

    Perkins’ Good Earth Farm is a small family farm that operates on 19 acres: 11 acres mixed forest and 8 acres tillable ground, with 1/8 acre in hoophouse vegetable production and ¼ acre in garlic production.  In 2013, we will be entering our 4 year of organic garlic and vegetable production.  We market our vegetables through a 15-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model and direct market sales.  We offer over winter spinach, carrots, and early season tomatoes, peppers, basil, and cucumbers. We offer gourmet seed and eating garlic via the internet and direct sales.  We hope to increase our gourmet garlic production by 50% over the next couple of years.

    We are in our establishment years and have been improving infrastructure and capacity while exploring market opportunities in our region.  Gourmet seed garlic production has proved profitable on an initial starting scale and we desire to expand production over the next couple years.  Having never farmed in sandy loams until this current farm, our recent switch to minimum techniques for garlic production has been critical to ensuring sustainability of our farm under intensive production.  It also presents unique challenges for management.  This project seeks to address some of the management and growth challenges with an appropriate cart design for easing labor fatigue while planting into a living cover crop, mulching with straw, and harvesting garlic.   
     
    Stooping, squatting or crawling for hours in our seed garlic and vegetable production have started to take its toll on our knees and backs.  Our hardneck seed garlic production is particularly difficult, as it must be planted by hand to meet our market demands and for high quality production.  In order to increase profits sustainably, we must increase our production; while at the same time reduce our planting, weeding, and harvesting labor fatigue and costs.  Our high residue system from planting into actively growing cover crops presents a unique management challenge.

    Project objectives:

    Our solution to this problem involved research, design, and field experience. 

    1. Conducted a literature and industry review of current sustainable agriculture solutions for labor efficiency in relation to lying down or sitting-harvest and planting carts.
    2. We then design and build a prototype of a cart specific to our garlic production, with features gleaned from the literature review.
      1. Dr. Dennis Buckmaster, Agricultural and Biological Engineering associate professor at Purdue University, will utilize several seniors from his capstone course to take on the design and fabrication of the cart.  A local welder, Ken Knip, has a shop next door to the farm and he, along with Purdue facilities, will be utilized for fabrication. 
      2. During the winter and early spring of 2012 a basic cart will be constructed, and in July during the harvest of garlic, it will be field trialed.
      3.  After harvest is complete we will tweak our design as needed and utilize the chart for planting in October 2012. 
      4. During the winter of 2013 we will further improve the cart and design and utilize the cart for the following 2013 planting and harvest.  We will then have two seasons of field level experience and feedback from which to make improvements.

    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.