Farmer-Built No-Welding Root Washer for Small Farmers

Project Overview

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

Annual Reports

Information Products

Plan Set 2 (Book/Handbook)
Plans Page 3 (Book/Handbook)
plans page 4 (Book/Handbook)
Page 5 (Book/Handbook)
page 6 (Book/Handbook)
page 7 (Book/Handbook)
page 8 (Book/Handbook)
page 9 (Book/Handbook)


  • Vegetables: beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, turnips


  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal summary:


    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



    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.



    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.



    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


    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 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 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.

    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.