There are thousands of different tools available for farmers today. The question is, which one is right for you? Through my own experiences and observations, I've collected a list of the ones that I love and would recommend to other farmers. I realize everyone's situation is different, but generally speaking, the tools that are the simplest to use are usually the best. After all, simplicity is the key to reliability.
General Market Farming Resources
Knott's Vegetable Growers Handbook
The one essential resource for vegetable growers. Filled with charts and tables of everything you need to know to grow and handle fresh vegetables. A must-own item for professional growers.
Satellite Farms Broccoli Production Manual
A guide to producing broccoli at scale.
SARE's Topic Room
An online collection of educational products that were created by SARE grantees during their SARE-funded project. Lots of interesting tidbits here.
Fearless Farm Finances
Chris co-authored this book on farm finances. It takes a big subject and breaks it down into easy-to-understand parts, with plenty of practical how-to advice on bookkeeping and budgeting.
Fearless Farm Finances Project - MOSES
This page has more information and resources about farm finances.
Goal Formation Packet
This is a conglomeration of resources that I have found useful in helping beginning and other farmers put together a written goal, based on the Holistic Management three-part goal idea.
Collect, Organize, Budget, Monitor Slideshow
This is a slideshow I used for a presentation at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Conference in Little Roc, Arkansas, in January, 2012. It isn't really a standalone show, but I had requests to share it, so here it is.
University of Iowa Vegetable Enterprise Budgets
These enterprise budgets provide a great starting point for deciding what to grow, as well as a look at the concept of how to structure an enterprise budget.
Loan calculators in Excel can be a challenge. I’ve put together a loan calculator in an Excel spreadsheet that you can download and use; I think it’s a little more straightforward than most. Try running some different scenarios on the Scenarios tab to compare payments for different rates and terms - you’ll find that taking out a longer-term loan turns out to be cheap insurance.
Ecolab - Our Source for Sanitizers
We use Tsunami 100 for a wash water sanitizer, and Oxonia Activ for a hard surface sanitizer.
Rock Spring Farm's source for brushes and hooks in all kinds of cool color schemes.
Mr. Sticky Fly Tape System
Use this to make long runs of sticky fly trap - great for semi-enclosed packing areas.
Rock Spring Farm's Food Safety Plan
This is the plan we used at Rock Spring Farm the year we passed our USDA GAPs audit. Feel free to borrow liberally if it suits your needs.
Three articles about food safety, by Chris Blanchard:
Keeping it Clean: Understanding Food Safety on the Market Farm
The Pathogen Path
Food Safety in the Packing House
Organic Seed Search Tool
Pick a Carrot is a customized search engine for seeds. You enter the variety, and Pick a Carrot searches out sources. It even includes a printer-friendly-page option that includes a time and date stamp, the search term, and whether or not organic seeds are available for that variety from each company in the search. Pretty slick.
Labels and Marketing
Advantage Label and Packaging
Rock Spring Farm's source for thermal label printers and labels. Excellent customer service, with an emphasis on taking care of small and large accounts alike.
Rock Spring Farm's source for custom printed twist ties. I figured out long ago that I could get custom ties cheaper than I could generic ties - I just needed to order 50,000 at a time. But they don't go bad in storage!
Market Farming Equipment
Market Farm Implement
Market Farm Implement provides some great customer service and a wealth of information. It's well worth getting their catalog for the education on right-sizing your tractor alone.
Roeter's Farm Equipment
I love browsing through this website. I remember hearing about Roeter's used equipment yard as a sort of quest that vegetable farmers used to go on when they were getting ready to scale up. A great company.
Greenhouse Trolley - Four Season Tools
The greenhouse trolley I feature in many of my presentations is available from Waldo and Associates. I think that Four Season Tools made some nice improvements on the design, and recommend their version of the product.
This seems to be out of print. The handcart described by David Tresemer is a vast improvement over what's available commercially. The booklet, originally published in 1985, includes plans that you can take to your local welder or do yourself.
Post-Harvest Handling Decision Tool
I developed this tool in 2008 with funding from the Leopold Institute. Lots of detailed information about equipment options for getting your vegetables clean.
Packing House Gloves
These are great gloves for the packing house, with lighter sleeves that extend up to the elbow.
Grindstone Farm's barrel washer is a pretty bare-bones deal, but it let Rock Spring Farm wash up to 1,000 lbs of beets an hour with just two people!
Orbis Totes for Harvest and Storage
These are the totes we used for harvesting and storing produce at Rock Spring Farm. Ours were vented on the sides and bottom to encourage rapid cooling and good water drainage. The model GS6040-36 is roughly equivalent to a 24-count leafy greens box in size.
Cooling Temps and Methods
A summary of recommended cooling treatments and storage temperatures for vegetables and selected fruits.
A good pocket dial thermometer can be an invaluable tool for understanding the actual temperature of your produce, and how long it takes to cool. Use this to check the internal temperature - that’s what really matters, not the air temperature surrounding the produce. Stick this into the butt of a head of lettuce, or the stem of some kale, to get an accurate picture of the effectiveness of your cooling regime.
Repetitive Motion Issues
Wrist and Arm Repair Kit
Following a summer spent putting fish in a filet machine in Alaska, I had carpal tunnel syndrome so bad that I frequently went weeks without getting a good night's sleep. Chiropractor Jack Booman fixed that using a technique called myofascial release. So while I don't have any one link that I can recommend, I encourage anyone with carpal tunnel issues or other wrist and arm pain issues to Google "myofascial release" and do some looking around.
This tool is fantastic for releasing adhesions and doing some of the myofascial release. Everybody I've introduced to this loves it for helping with back pain, neck pain, arm and wrist pain, and just sore muscles.
Transplant Production Decision Tool
This comparison of transplant production tools and equipment for different scales and different types of vegetable farms was developed by Chris Blanchard.
Four Season Tools
I haven't used their high tunnels, but they have been great to work with, and their designs are outstanding. Also, their rollup bars are out of this world.
Hydro-Gardens Garden Pack Beneficial Insects
I like to use this shotgun approach to inoculate my transplant production house against insect pest outbreaks early in the season. Getting ahead of the growth curve makes a huge difference in keeping aphids and others from getting out of control.
Distribution and Marketing
In the Market for Success
Strategies and case studies about cooperative marketing and distribution strategies, from formal cooperatives to simple identity-preserved trucking efforts.