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Sessions & Workshops
Innovations in grower tools and cultivation approaches
Featuring a range of innovative tools and ideas as well as showing how to modify old kit. Discussion topics will include relevance and practicality of the innovations presented. (Organised by OGA)
Alan Schofield (Organic Growers Alliance): Chair
Two films were supposed to be shown as introduction to this workshop; however, due to network problems, only one was run. Both are accessible on the internet: .
The film presented a Japanese method of producing paper-pot transplants and showed how they can be planted with a specially designed planter. However, this method is only practical for selected crops and works best in fine soils without residues.
The other film was Eliot Coleman Discusses Inventing New Tools for Small-Scale Farming .
Roger Hitchings went on introducing the audience to Eliot Coleman’s work and farm, and described his impressions and experience from his two visits on Eliot’s farm. A wide range of handmade tools were shown and various constructions of movable polytunnels. One example for application was after the tomato-crop has finished in autumn, moving the tunnel (e.g. by hand or on rails) over to a neighbouring plot with Christmas-flowering chrysanthemums. Also the mobile chicken coops were very interesting, made of polytunnel materials and two bike-wheels, including a nest box, ramp, mesh floor and roosts.
He went on describing how he transforms his wood-chip compost heap into a hot-bed, using the heat coming from the compost in a low tunnel on top, to grow salad leaves in trays during the winter months. Temperatures in the tunnel stay around 10 degrees Celsius and the seeds which had sown during the first week of December are now 10 cm tall (6-7 weeks later).
The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points:
- As labour is the most expensive part of the growers work, it is important to make tasks as efficient, easy and fun as possible.
- Using the heat of compost heaps in low tunnels is a great opportunity to grow early crops during the cold winter months.
- Transforming old, used and cheap tools/items into new and more efficient ones is often easier as expected. Everyone should give it a go!
Individual speaker presentations and abstracts
Video shorts: Innovations from the USA
These two short video presentations will set the scene for the innovative machinery workshop session. The first features Eliot Coleman himself explaining why he felt it necessary to develop his own tools, equipment and systems. The second will feature the Japanese paper pot transplant system as an example of innovation that can really make a difference in the right situation.
This talk will introduce a number of innovative approaches to small-scale production developed by that most respected of organic growers, Eliot Coleman. The talk will be illustrated by a series of photographs taken during visits by ORC staff to Four Season Farm. Questions for discussion include whether such innovations are widely applicable and do they have the potential to stimulate further innovation.
Iain Tolhurst (Tolhurst Organic Growers): Innovations in growers’ tools (5.4MB)
Since the dawn of mankind we have been developing tools, the very first ones were directly related to food production or food procurement. The development of tools for humans was unique in the animal kingdom; having fingers and an opposing thumb gave us fantastic dexterity, tools gave us the ability to exercise increasingly our control over our environment and led to huge increases in food production and hence population growth. The latter is a clear illustration as to how successful mankind has become and we are now faced with the danger of becoming a victim of that success.
Growers tend to be practical people and organic ones no less so, we have all made or adapted a specific piece of kit for a particular task at some time. My presentation will look at tools for growers that can be easily and cheaply produced on farm or locally, tools that are for specific purposes either to speed up jobs or to take out some of the graft that may be needed. Working hand in hand with tools is the development of systems; these are often as a result of tool development or as a direct need for finding a solution to a new problem brought about by mechanisation. I will be drawing upon examples of the way tools are used and developed at Hardwick on our farm and in the gardens.