Demonstration of low impact tractor cultivation in a regenerative farm model to increase production using equipment sharing on multiple farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2024: $29,997.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2026
Grant Recipient: Whispering Wild Market Farm
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Gina Kerr
Whispering Wild Market Farm


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal summary:

Our little community is rooted in the small, family farm. There
is great demand for the produce small farms grow in our area.
However, our season is short and our winters are long with 300+
inches of snowfall on average. Farming vegetables here is hard,
with only a handful of farmers to meet the demand. Our area is
surrounded by water in three directions on the Keweenaw
Peninusula with no major freeways or ports. After the pandemic,
the demand has only increased. Given rise to many programs to
feed those in need and to support local farms. The biggest issue
is our ability to produce enough. All of the farms in the area
have been working tirelessly to grow their production, but we are
meeting the threshold of physical ability. Hiring farm labor is
expensive and very difficult to keep folks for more than a few
months. To make our farms work, we are moving towards
mechanization. Our extension has very limited equipment to use
and it is a 2.5 hour drive to retrieve it. We want to demonstrate
to the community, the children, and the region that small-scale
farming can meet these needs with a shared equipment model. 

Project objectives from proposal:

The solution to more production in our small community is either
a lot more labor (hard to come by and very expensive), more
farmers (we encourage any that want to start), or we can
mechanize in an environmentally responsible way with farmers we
already have, using the land we already own. Tractor
implementation will allow us to plant large plots of crops such
as potatoes, sweet corn, winter squash, onions, and garlic
quickly and easily without sacrificing our health and safety.
We'll be able to spread compost and amendments without breaking
our backs, and plant, weed, and harvest without creating
repetitive use injuries. We plan to open up a large fallow field
of about 1.5 acres to increase the production of the crops above.
This will free up existing garden space for more intensive crops
such as lettuce, peas, beans, carrots, greens etc. that will be
cultivated using some of the equipment purchased with the grant,
but more focused on hand tools and walk-behind equipment as the
plots are smaller.

We plan to share these expensive tools with the other farmers in
our area. We do not need to compete. There are plenty of
customers and opportunities for us all. We want to see our farm
community grow into the shoes of our market share. Gina Kerr will
facilitate the equipment schedule and Josh will trailer the
needed implement to other farms with our flatbed trailer for
their use with their tractors. Or, if needed we'll trailer our
tractor with the implement for their use. We plan to educate the
next generation by hosting farm tours and demonstrating
sustainable, low-impact farming using machinery. Presenting the
equipment sharing model as outreach to regional farms will
encourage the same and similar practices and encourage our
extension to make bigger purchases of equipment to lend. 

In using this equipment, we intend to demonstrate the
effectiveness of small-scale, sustainable farming when hand tools
are combined with mechanical equipment. These demonstrations will
be offered to the public through farm tours, presentations,
social media, and YouTube. 


  1. Purchase tractor implements and equipment.
  2. Plant 1.5 acres of vegetables.
  3. Document soil changes/improvement through observation and
    soil tests.
  4. Share this equipment with other farmers.
  5. Meet the needs of our local market share with improved
    profitability, productivity, and time flexibility while reducing
    injury, fatigue, and burnout and maintaining a low impact on the
  6. Host farm tours with children from local schools (CAPE
    program farm tours and the Farm-to-School program). 
  7. Host farm tours to the public through Keweenaw Food Co-op.
  8. Present the equipment-sharing model to regional farms and
    extension through a regional food systems conference and in
    classrooms to children via Farm to School.
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.