Author: Melissa Fery, Oregon State University Small Farms Program

Publish Date: Spring 2017

Recycling, repurposing and modifying are not new concepts for farmers, who are constantly working to find the right piece of equipment for a task or a cost effective way to get a job done. Some people have a natural ability to engineer what they need and the rest of us have the wisdom to reproduce their ideas, legally, of course. Thanks to online resources, such as http://farmhack.org/tools or youtube videos, limitless ways to make something you need, utilizing materials you have laying around the farm are just a few clicks away. Need an example? Search ‘homemade chicken plucker’ on YouTube and you’ll find creative, yet functional designs that use an old washing machine drum and a 55 gallon barrel to a cordless drill and pvc pipe.

On a recent farm tour, Beth Hoinacki of Goodfoot Farm showed great example of repurposing a broken chest freezer into a seed germination chamber. “The most expensive part was the new latch, purchased to keep the door securely closed,” said Beth. With a little wiring and experimentation with lightbulb wattage to get the needed temperature, she is able to germinate tomatoes and peppers with ease. Beth cautioned, “You need to watch carefully because once the seed has germinated you need to get them out, otherwise they’ll turn leggy without sunlight.”

Designing equipment to solve problems and increase efficiency 

is what Mark Luterra has been doing since his employment with Wild Garden Seeds in 2014. As he helped winnow seeds with box fans, wind drip tape onto a reel or other farm tasks, Mark’s engineering and planning skills were also at work. As a result, he has designed and built equipment to meet needs at the farm. The Winnow Wizard and Wonder Winder are two examples with original designs available at http://luterra.com. Mark also offers a Problem-solving, Brainstorming, Design service where you can send him a need and he’ll ponder it and reply with some tentative ideas.

Keeping fruit and vegetables fresh to minimize spoilage often requires cold storage, a cost that many small-scale farms can’t justify. What if you could find a way to insulate a simple structure and make your own walk-in cooler for a few hundred dollars? Ron Khosla, a farmer and engineer who now resides in Oregon, developed the CoolBot®, a device that tricks a window air conditioner unit into getting colder without freezing. Within the last few years, many local farms have invested in a CoolBot® to make a DIY cooler that provides opportunity to extend the harvest to market period and the ability to store produce efficiently and safely. More information about the CoolBot and designs for structures are available at https://www.storeitcold.com/agriculture

Are you proud of a useful tool or piece of equipment you have made and would like to share it other farmers? Please email a photo, along with your name and a brief description of what it is to SmallFarmsProgram@oregonstate.edu and we’ll post it on our OSU Small Farms Facebook page.