Organic farming equipment need not be any different from the equipment used on conventional farms, but some farmers choose to take a more sustainable approach to selecting equipment for their fields.
Basic Farm Equipment
No matter the size of your organic farm, it's likely you'll need at least some equipment to make your job a little easier. While a relatively small plot of land could be cultivated and harvested by hand, if you've got any kind of large-scale production, you'll want some organic farming equipment to help you out.
Just a few of the machines you might consider buying include:
- Broadcast or air seeder
- Seed drill, air seeder or precision gun
- Harvester or combine
- Equipment for transportation or moving earth, such as a backhoe, front-end loader or motorized cart
Making Organic Farming Equipment Choices
Many people feel that a big part of organic farming is taking care of the planet, which extends to avoiding the use of machinery as much as possible. Farmers, like everyone else, are interested in reducing their carbon footprints. They want to produce food in the most environmentally sensitive way while at the same time making a profit. It's not very realistic to think that a farmer who owns a large acreage can profitably grow his crops without any mechanical help. However, some farmers work around the problem of all the petroleum and other resources involved in making new farm equipment by maintaining old equipment for as long as possible.
Many farmers choose used and antique equipment because it's all they can afford, but they may actually be doing the environment a favor by not junking old machinery just because it needs a new part.
There are many resources for people who own antique farm equipment. Most of the parts are still available, meaning you won't just have to buy a new piece of equipment when the old one breaks down.
One Vital Piece of Farm Equipment
There's one piece of organic farming equipment you might not have thought of that's pretty important to organic farmers: a computer. There are many records that need to be kept to achieve and maintain organic certification status. Accurate records are also useful to keep your fields in the best health possible.
You'll want to know when and where you planted different crops from year to year to help with crop rotation, how much fertilizer or what kind of mulch was applied, what kinds of pests you had to deal with and what worked and what didn't in trying to eradicate them.
You'll also want to record your yield, how much food your land actually produced, and what you sold to whom and for what price.
You could probably keep most of this information in a regular old notebook, but having it on a computer makes it much easier to compare what happened from year to year. This is especially true if you can figure out a database or spreadsheet to store this information.
Using a computer should also enable you to plan better for the future because you'll know, for example, that a particular kind of organic beet didn't sell very well and you should give that land over to carrots instead.
Deciding what equipment you need and whether to buy new or used will depend on the amount of land you have, what you intend to plant, what you can afford and how well-versed you are in farm equipment repair. It would probably be a good idea to talk to any other organic farmers in your area about the equipment they use the most before you make any purchases.
As an organic farmer, odds are good you'll want to take the health of the planet into consideration as well. Could you get one more season out of that combine instead of dumping it in the landfill? If not, maybe you could explore donating old farm equipment to someone else or seeking out recycling programs so your trash doesn't become such a burden on the environment.