Understanding equipment sharing: A farmer toolkit
From small urban farms sharing hand tools to large Midwestern grain farms sharing combines, group ownership models remain an important strategy to access the tools farmers need to survive and thrive. By sharing equipment, farmers may:
- reduce capital investment in machinery and facilities
- increase labor efficiency through labor-saving technology
- attain greater economy of scale at a lower financial cost
- access specialized equipment that opens new revenue opportunities
This project will research and dissect the components of a successful tool sharing program, and provide practical, concrete information and planning tools for farmers who wish to start a program of their own. At project completion, a free PDF guidebook will be made available online and distributed widely through robust outreach efforts. The guide will include case studies, summaries of possible ownership structures and fee structures, operational considerations and best practices, and a series of sample legal documents and budgets.
With those tools and information, we intend to empower producers to develop their own tool sharing programs, suited to the needs of their producer community.
The project goal was to research, create, and disseminate a PDF guide to understanding equipment sharing programs. The guide will explore tool sharing programs of many kinds, and address the major considerations (legal, financial, and operational) that determine their success.
Planned Research Steps:
- Literature review and secondary research
- In-depth interviews with existing equipment share programs:
- Work with technical advisors
- Primary research in Columbia County farm community.
Planned Resource Creation:
- Case studies detailing a wide variety of approaches to sharing equipment
- Written summaries of ownership structures commonly used to share equipment
- Annotated sample operating agreement for an equipment-sharing LLC
- Annotated sample Memorandum of Agreement for equipment use
- Written summaries of the various business models used (revenue sources, fee structures, and approaches to managing expenses)
- Annotated sample budgets for equipment maintenance and program coordination
- Written summary of best practices in management of shared equipment
- “Lessons learned” : successes and failures in operational practices, drawn from interviews with existing programs
Progress thus far:
- Conducted thorough secondary research and literature review.
- Identified 20 of 20 interview subjects.
- Conducted 4 out of the planned 20 interviews.
- Using initial research and interviews, I have constructed a guidebook outline and organized the subject matter.
- Identified Case studies
- Identified ownership structures commonly used to share equipment
Research thus far has shown that equipment sharing programs, while far from common, exist in many forms throughout the United States. Sufficient examples of equipment-sharing exist to shift the question from “is equipment sharing between farmers feasible?” to “which model, if any, might work in our area?”
The main accomplishment to date is to map the considerations for equipment-sharing, identify the tools that would be most helpful to farmers in organizing an equipment share program, and identifying examples of equipment sharing to reference. This initial research will provide the basis for our next stage of work, including creating budgets and legal documents, as well as filling in and revising the subject matter now outlined as interviews continue.
Cooperative Development Institute
106 Harlan Drive
Barrington, NH 03825