Replacing some stoop labor tasks on the small farm could be as simple as riding a bike. Or at least a bicycle-based tractor.
This farm hack may speed up the ever-present tasks of seeding, weeding, and cultivating row crops on the small farm, without burning any fossil fuels, not to mention making it a hell of a lot more fun.
Having put in a lot of time volunteering at CSA farms, as well as countless hours on my knees in my own garden, I am strongly in favor of anything that can reduce the need for bending over or kneeling or squatting quite as much during the growing season.
Just about any mechanical innovation that makes weeding easier is great in my book, and while getting the right tool for the job (such as switching from a standard hoe to a stirrup hoe, for example) can radically speed up your weeding chores, being able to drive a small tractor down a row to do the same work could be a gamechanger in terms of efficiency.
But a small tractor is still a big investment, counting both the purchase cost and the ongoing fuel and maintenance costs, and until affordable electric tractors hit the small farming scene, the only choices on the market burn fossil fuels and generate pollution, neither of which is desirable.
One possible solution for small farms might lie in building and using one of these zero-emissions pedal-powered tractors to take on the low-horsepower tasks on the farm, including weeding, cultivating, seeding, spraying, and possibly even harvesting.
A prototype of this little tractor, called the Culticycle, is being developed by Tim Cook of Green Tractor Farm, with the first iteration of it appearing on Farm Hack, and a recently released video shows a much more polished model in action.
"The math behind the idea is nothing more than observing that a lot of the work a tractor does – shallow cultivation, seeding, flame weeding – requires very little of its available horsepower; and since these jobs are best done between 3 and 5 mph, a bike can be geared down low enough that a human can produce the necessary horsepower." - Culticycle
According to the latest update about the Culticycle on Farm Hack, a "more easily buildable" modular version is coming, and Tim commented that he is getting the drawings and build page ready to release soon.