- Agronomic: corn, potatoes
- Fruits: melons, berries (strawberries)
- Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
- Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals
- Crop Production: cover crops
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
- Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, community-supported agriculture, marketing management, agricultural finance
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
- Pest Management: flame, physical control, mulching - vegetative
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, employment opportunities, sustainability measures
With the diversity of crops grown on a CSA Farm, multiple farm tasks are required daily. The Dynamic Attachment Frame System is an idea that springs from constantly removing a single task implement then connecting a different implement and adjusting each implement every time it is connected.
With one Main Frame and several "drop in" attachments, the adjustments are required just once for each individual attachment. When switching between tasks like hilling potatoes to seeding radishes at 3 rows/per bed to seeding corn at 1 row/bed to cultivating carrots, only minutes will be required to remove an attachment and drop in the next attachment.
Early cultivation before emergence of seedlings will be easier as worries of mis-alignment will be reduced since the cultivators are pre-set for the spacing of the seeders. The size and scale of this attachment system are targeted for the small to mid-size CSA or Market Farm Operation. It appears that bigger farms have large scale equipment readily available and most small farms either make do with oversized equipment or spend lots of time modifying large scale equipment to fit small scale methods.
This setup would enable the tractor, attachments, and farmer to act as an efficient System. As humans, we do not have to take off our arms to use our legs, nor do we have to stop using our eyes to hear.
Project objectives from proposal:
Productivity throughout all stages of a crop cycle will be increased as the efficiency of this system will enable the farmer to complete multiple tasks on-time. Crop size & quality will be enhanced as weed pressure will be minimized.
So, as previous backyard gardeners, we transitioned three years ago to small scale farmers. We started our CSA with the intent of developing a regional food source contributing to a strong local economy, encouraging healthy land stewardship and maintaining a stable relationship between rural and urban communities.
The first year of operation we used a Farmall Cub with a disc, hand tools, and a rototiller. This was challenging, but scale appropriate as we were growing for 12 (very patient and understanding) families. Our second year we doubled our membership to 25 as we obtained a 32HP John Deere tractor with a 3-point hitch, 48” tiller, waterwheel transplanter, and a bed shaper. Most crops were direct seeded using an Earthway precision seeder. As our crops grew, so did the weeds. All weeding was done by hand &/or not done at all. When we did have time to weed a crop, we were slowed down by inaccurate spacing of seedlings and unevenness of row spacing. Moreover, crop quality was diminished as the seedlings had to compete for water and nutrition from the ever advancing weeds. Needless to say, our second year was challenging as well as frustrating. Our third year of growing, we were accustomed to using a few tractor mounted implements, but repeatedly got frustrated with the time required to switch between implements. Also, once a new implement was connected, it usually took five to ten feet of bed length to get the attachment adjusted properly, usually with loss of crops involved. With direct seeding by hand the unevenness or lack of straightness of each row diminished our effectiveness at in row weeding.
Several times we had an implement connected with the intent of using it later in the week. Since changing attachments takes time, we usually use each connected implement as much as possible before switching to the next implement. As a diversified CSA farm, we typically grow several short beds of multiple crops adjacent to each other for a continued harvest for our members. This diversity of crops is necessary from a consumer’s standpoint as we have yet to meet someone who wants to eat several pounds of kale each week.
The attachment system, as proposed under this grant, would solve several problems. Efficiency of switching between implements would be increased so multiple attachments could be used each day with no down-time. Plant growth, vigor & quality would be greatly improved as weed pressure would be minimized since early and consistent cultivation would be more efficient. Harvest and processing time including water consumption would decrease with less weed growth intermixed with each crop. Harvest diversity would increase as more crops could be harvested each week with less time & CSA Membership could increase as farmer efficiency would improve.
The Dynamic Attachment Frame System is a new tool prototype combining tried and true agricultural implements with a unique and innovative way for connecting, switching, and utilization of these scale appropriate tools. Here is the system:
The Main Frame will connect to the tractor 3-point hitch. The lifting arms of the 3-point hitch are adjusted for side to side alignment and the top link arm is adjusted for its correct horizontal angle. Once the hitch points are connected and adjusted, no further adjustment should be required. All attachments are then “dropped into place” in the main frame.
The Height Wheels are installed on the front of the frame and are set so the frame drops to the same height each time. The height wheels can be used as alignment wheels to keep the frame aligned on a shaped bed.
The Two Row Seeder will utilize (2) Earthway 1001-B Precision Seeders which are very common on small farms. These will individually attach to the System Bar. The two seeders can be adjusted left/right for between row spacing. Each seeder connection will allow for easy removal from its mounting bar so excess seeds can be removed, seed plates changed and new seeds placed into the hopper. The seeder will operate just like walking with the Earthway seeder, but will maintain straight rows with exact between row spacing.
The Two Row Cultivator will utilize heavy duty industrial grade rakes. Since we are not growing field crops and our beds are well prepared, we do not have large clods to break up, we are only cultivating the top 1/2 inch of soil to dislodge weeds when they are just emerging. The adjustments are made to the rakes to fit the exact spacing of the seeders. The two row cultivator rake can even be used at the same time as the seeder for an initial cultivation at the time of seeding a crop.
The One Row Seeder is the same as Two Row Seeder above, only with (1) Earthway seeder installed on the System Bar. Here is the key… -> To get a bed planted to three rows, use both the two row seeder and the one row seeder installed in the main frame at the same time! ALSO, with having different individual seeders, different sized seeds can be planted in each of the rows, i.e., carrots can be planted in the outside rows and bigger sized beets can be planted in the center row.
The One Row Cultivator is the same as Two Row Cultivator above, only with the rakes adjusted for the one row seeder.
The Three Row Cultivator is the same as cultivators above, only with the rakes adjusted for three rows of plants.
The Springtine Rake will utilize heavy duty springtine rakes which can be used to assist in bed preparation to break up large clods of soil or to remove unwanted field debris prior to seeding.
The Disc Hiller will have heat treated disc blades with heavy duty bearings and can be adjusted in height & rotational angle. The Disc Hiller will be used to hill crops like potatoes.
The Furrower will be a traditional furrower mounted to a System Bar.
The Roller/Crimper will utilize an 8 inch steel roller with heavy duty bearings and additional angled welded plates to crimp cover crops which kill them. The roller crimper is based upon a previous SARE grant with the Rodale Institute.
The Root Digger will be two ½ inch thick, solid steel, heavy duty shanks with a solid cross member welded on an angle. This will be used to drop below root crops like potatoes & garlic and gently lift the roots up above the soil level for easy harvesting.
The Harvest Platform will be used every week in the summer. The harvest platform will be a simple platform with a canopy hood to keep the direct sunlight from our crops as they are harvested. Field workers can harvest crops into harvest bins and then walk over to the tractor with harvest platform and put the full (heavy) bins on the platform instead of walking several hundred feet back to the wash/pack shed to deliver the bins. This will save lots of time on the tight schedule of harvest days.
The Broadcast Spreader will utilize an Earthway M21 12VDC Broadcast Spreader. This will mount to a System Bar and will be utilized to be more efficient at cover crop seeding.
The Roller/Cultipacker will utilize an 8 inch steel roller with heavy duty bearings to pack the soil after seeding which will ensure proper soil to seed contact.
The Flame Weeder will utilize a gas manifold system with multiple flame burners to evenly cover a 30” wide bed. Most small scale flame weeders are hand held and have a single high output burning point. As flame weeding should take place after the weeds emerge but before the crops appear & the weeds at this size do not need to be burned, just wilted. This manifold will allow for coverage over a complete bed, not just a single point.