Simple Ergonomics and Lean Thinking at Chewonki Farm

I recently visited Chewonki, a school, camp, and farm in Wisscasset, ME that had a recent visit from an ergonomics consultant at their beautiful new pack shed. Some insurance companies offer these visits for free as an injury (and claim) prevention measure.

Several things that struck me:

  • They were experimenting with different heights for wash bins, harvest crate landing zones, and drying racks using combinations of cinder blocks, stacked pallets and adjustable kitchen racks. They have a constantly changing work crew of different ages and physical abilities. I thought it was a great way of settling into a new workspace and getting a feel for efficiency, flow, and positions of things before committing with permanent fixtures.
    Lessons learned:

    • bring the work to you, and
    • prototype your layout before building anything permanent.
  • The tool shed attached to the wash packed shed was highly organized. Again, with a dynamic, changing crew it is important that tool location be standard and searching be minimized.
    Lessons learned:

    • a place for everything, and everything in its place.
  • I loved the lighter grey stock tankss / waterers they were using. They allow easy checks for water change timing (vs. darker materials).
    Lessons learned:

    • consider all options when purchasing what seems like a simple, standard thing
    • passive solutions to challenges often come at little to no cost premium.

Thanks to the fine fine folks at Chewonki for hosting me and sharing some of the great work they’re doing. They also have a whale skeleton hanging in one of their main halls. That is another story.

A Better Way to Pick Strawberries

Tried and tested, the Picking Assistant by Crop Care works great for picking strawberries! Using both hands to “swim” through the plants helps you become efficient and thorough at picking. This machine is also great for weeding or planting other crops as well. More information about their new model can be found here: https://cropcareequipment.com/vegetable_equip/picking_assistant.phpI have experience using a Picking Assistant, and it has been a game changer on the farm! Here is a video of it in action.

 

Greens Spinners for Farm Use

Download the PDF Fact Sheet Here!

Introduction

An important factor in growing and selling high-quality greens is being able to efficiently wash, cool, and dry the product. The drying step is commonly done using centrifugal force in a spinner.  The water is spun off of the greens through a filter basket or other porous container.  Some growers use mesh bags to contain the greens and improve the efficiency of loading and unloading the spinner.

Some of the key features to consider when thinking about a spinner include cost, capacity, power, space and sanitary design.

Cost

There is a broad range of spinners available and they vary considerably in cost.  Your budget may dictate which option you choose. But, consider the other features below as well. For example, a less expensive, converted washing machine spinner may actually cost more in cleaning labor when compared to a machine designed to be cleaned.

Capacity

How big is each batch or how much do you need to dry in a day?  Keep in mind that a 5-gallon spinner cannot adequately dry 5 gallons of greens since there needs to be room for the greens to spread out and not create an overly thick mat that water can’t get through. A rough rule of thumb is 1.1 gal of spinner volume for 1.0 lb of greens. Continue reading Greens Spinners for Farm Use

New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference 2017

In addition to attending the Great Lakes Expo, UVM Ag Engineering attended the New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference in Manchester, NH. This conference is very well suited for the small-scale and highly diversified farmers that populate the North East.

This conference is filled with a variety of vendors at the trade show, presentations covering specific details of individual crops and varieties, and even talks on designing your farm with an eye on food safety. Another interesting activity that went on was the farmer to farmer sessions that are not presentations but a lead conversation to discuss what works and what doesn’t on your farm. A lot of tips, tricks, and common complaints are all brought up and shared during this literally circled up conversation.

If you’ve never been here are a few photos from the event, which was very snowy in mid-December.

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Here is a short highlight video from the conference!

 

The presentations that Chris gave at this conference can be seen below. This first one is all about designing your facilities with a food safety mindset. If you’ve never thought about your infrastructure Continue reading New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference 2017

The AZS Rinse Conveyor at Picadilly Farm


Picadilly Farm is owned and operated by Jenny and Bruce Wooster since 2006. Their farm is located in the South East Corner of New Hampshire in Winchester and has about 30 acres in production. They provide fresh produce to over 1,000 families through CSA shares spread across New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

Bruce reached out to share that he has an AZS Rinse conveyor and offered up his thoughts on the equipment as well.

Continue reading The AZS Rinse Conveyor at Picadilly Farm

DewRight Debut: From Product to Patent

This video is an episode from Across the Fence! It holds an interview with Judy Simpson as well as a description of the product.

The video below highlights the 9min segment specifically talking about the DewRight.

Read the write up from Vermont Business Magazine here.

Read the press release from UVM’s University Communications here.

Checking out Vendors at the Great Lakes Expo

In December, UVM Ag Engineering ventured out to Grand Rapids, MI to attend the Great Lakes Expo

This exposition was HUGE and full of a variety of seed companies, equipment suppliers, and machinery on display. There was a lot of technology targeted towards fruit growing which is big in that region which was neat to see.

Photos from the trip can be seen here.

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The following are videos clips taken with vendors explaining some of what they have to offer.

Continue reading Checking out Vendors at the Great Lakes Expo

Innovation in Small Scale Vegetable Washing Equipment

What’s new in Ag tech? Well, one thing that we’ve recently discovered is a rinse conveyor. Specifically designed for the small-scale farm who wants to graduate from hand washing to something a little more automated that can really crank up the pounds of washed vegetables for market.

The AZS Rinse Conveyor

This machine is made by AZS, an equipment manufacturing company in Ephrata, PA. It is available in full stainless steel, with adjustable water pressure and belt speed, available for under $7,000.

Continue reading Innovation in Small Scale Vegetable Washing Equipment

The AZS Rinse Conveyor at Native Son Farm

Native Son farm is a small diversified vegetable farm in Tupelo Mississippi, who had been washing vegetables by hand and started looking at automated wash lines. With zero experience on automated washing, he began first researching the common barrel washer, reading reviews, and watching videos online. Will Reed reached out to Deerfield Supply out Kentucky who distributed AZS equipment. Upon meeting Harvey from AZS, he learned about the rinse conveyor, which is less aggressive on the crops than a barrel washer. It is also designed with cleaning in mind which has a high level of food safety appeal.

Continue reading The AZS Rinse Conveyor at Native Son Farm