Farm Hack

Farmers, ranchers, growers, eaters, designers, builders, engineers, tinkerers unite!

Last weekend, Cycle Farm had the pleasure of participating in South Dakota’s very first Farm Hack, as part of Dakota Rural Action‘s annual meeting. Farm Hack is an open source community for farmer-driven design collaboration; a virtual grange hall for developing and sharing ideas to promote a more resilient agricultural system; and a jolly good time.

hack the greenhouseThe afternoon featured a tour of the farm, a scrumptious potluck, and insightful presentations by local grower-builders. Jared Capp, of Pangea Designs Group, shared his water wheel / “Wirtz” pump. Spinny, smart, and described in more detail in this brief video. Andy Johnson, a physics professor at the university, shared with us his hydraulic ram-pump irrigation system – even bringing in the pump to demo. Jeremy gave a brief introduction on the potential and applicability of human- and pedal-powered tools for small scale agriculture.andy and ram pump

After touring the farm and feasting together, we all cozied up in the living room and, as a group, we discussed some of our biggest challenges and irksome pet peeves as growers in the Northern Black Hills and South Dakota. Collectively, we were backyard gardeners, aspiring and beginning farmers, 2-3rd generation farmers, Woofers, CSA vegetable growers, chicken ranchers, natural builders, physics enthusiasts, community organizers, museum curators – a strong, diverse brain-power power-house.

Our list of troubles included flea beetles and potato bugs. Protecting orchard trees from big snows. Hard water and irrigation tubing. Profitably harvesting green beans. One issue that rose to the top of the list was planting, transplanting, harvesting long rows and the associated discomfort of kneeling, crouching, scooting down the rows. Say, planting garlic. The solution: a garden gurney. So we set to designing a self-propelled (pedal powered, treadle powered) prone farm mobility vehicle (a bit like this, only self propelled). Enter big markers and wild ideas.

By the end of the afternoon, we had generated a list of necessary (and not entirely necessary, but wouldn’t it be nice to have..?) features, design sketches, and possible self-propelled mechanisms. Feeding off this enthusiasm and momentum, we set a date to reconnect at the Spearfish Bike Coop, to start putting pieces together. The next step will be to share what we develop on farmhack.net, for other small-scale growers to use, adapt, modify, critique, and improve. Stay tuned. Or better yet, if you’d like to get involved in designing, building, testing – contact us.

For more information regarding Farm Hack, please check out this eloquent and timely piece by Courtney White, founder of the Quivira Coalition, who just participated in a West Slope Colorado Farm Hack.

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