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Ask Tom: Annual Farm Gizmos Column

October 29, 2012

ImageThis month’s column departs from our traditional approach and offers a series of ideas and links to inspire farm efficiency improvements as we enter fall and winter – when we may actually have some time to do research and follow-up. Please comment freely if you have tried any of these devices or if you have invented “gizmos” that may be useful to others in our on-line community.

Gizmo Definition – a mechanical gadget, especially one whose name the author does not know or cannot recall.

Image Solar water pump – Here is an interesting design by the Full Belly Project in Wilmington NC. It is a hand cart with a solar photovoltaic (electric) panel which powers a portable pump. Contact information is at the site listed below as well as a full list of their other products. Below that is a link to a You Tube clip on this same device.

ImageMobile Cooler – Penelope Perkins-Veazie with NCSU developed this Cool-Bot design for a mobile cooler which might be useful for folks using leased land or needing quick cooling during harvest (for berries or greens perhaps). The You Tube link on the second site listed below provides a quick overview of the construction process. Much of the $3500 cost of this device covers the trailer and air conditioner which will be less if obtained used.

Net Bags – Anyone who has toured our farm will hear me rave on about how useful net bags are in salad mix Imageharvesting. This is one of many useful links at the Healthy Farmer/Healthy Profits site from the University of Wisconsin. I will highlight several others from this site below.


This year we tried an over-the-shoulder model that worked well for squash and pepper harvesting. Just tie a rope or piece of webbing around a handful of the bag top in two places. Adjust the length to fit the height of the user.

Back-saving Harvest (or weeding) Cart – This device is human powered and has an estimated construction cost of $150. We built a similar device with two wheels but this one looks better.

Motorized versions are also described at


Hands-free Washing Station

You can add a foot-operated valve to save water for about $80


Healthy Farmers – Healthy Profits SiteAt the bottom of this page are other links related to berries, dairy and nursery enterprises. While your farm may not be in those categories you might find some useful gizmos there like the strap on stool for berry harvest.

Happy fall and happy reading.

— Tom

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