Designers, manufacturers, farmers & students gathered in Tarrytown, NY, February 13th to 14th for the Slow Tools Conference at Stone Barns.
Attendees from California, Washington, Louisiana, New England and Canada first gathered in the green house for demonstrations. A
walk-behind tractor switched between tine, basket and finger weeders.
Terateck co-founder Romaine Wittrisch showed a new walk-behind greens-harvester, plus a 30” flame weeder, embossed ribs gracing its stainless-steel hood. Michael McGowan of Carts & Tools gave updates on the Tillie, integrated guidance systems, and reduced power consumption on new cultivating equipment. Johnny's Seeds represented Neversink and Eliot Coleman tools.
Outside, Oggun and Tilmor displayed tractors similar to the Allis-Chalmers 'G', yet Oggun champions hydraulic drive. One Tilmor innovation is a boom that lifts implements into the mid-mount. Dustin Steiner, third generation of his family to build tractors, told of challenges to make Tilmor affordable while meeting safety regulations.
Thoughtfully catered meals supported
casual connections throughout the conference. Our afternoon sessions featured panel discussions, one of which branched into a group exercise facilitated by Ideo.
We were to decide
three aspects most important to create a perfect farm, then we had to design a new business without
those three key
aspects, this was
a real brain-stretch!
Aaron Yoder, University of Nebraska, showed statistics on roll-over protection systems for tractors being the best prevention of farm fatalities. Pictoral warnings and color-coding of controls make machinery intuitively safer.
Blue Hills Chef Dan Barber & farm director Jack Algiere hosted a dinner conversation about their collaborative process at Stone Barns. Everything from how the eggs were cooked, seed corn origins to make the polenta, to the fermented edamame had a story.
Our final activity was to design a new tool, using the adjective of what that tool provided, then we created a story-board illustrating the process.
Farmer Jack offered a tour before leaving, giving an overview of crops, livestock, and composting. Jack explained about large piles of compost with parallel runs of PVC pipe every few feet. Pipes were connected to a manifold fed with air from a bouncy castle blower timed to run 2 minutes every 20 minutes.
An additional system uses copper tubing to heat circulating water. Jack explained that the heat inside the pile is shaped like a donut, or 'torus', making a coil ideal for capturing heat from decomposition.
Upon arriving home, Bryan Dyck summed it up best; 'it helped me feel a broader sense of what the small scale growers can achieve by collaborating together to make everybody successful through appropriate tech.'