It's about time that farm and garden tools broke out of the 'one size fits all' model, and these two women farmers are bridging that gender gap with tools designed specifically for women.
We may all be equal, but we're not all equally sized or proportioned, and because of the differences between women's bodies and men's bodies, the tools that work well in a man's hands may not be nearly as useful to a woman. According to Green Heron Tools, women's bodies tend to have a lot less upper body strength, less lower body strength, a lower center of gravity, proportionally shorter limbs, smaller hands and less grip strength than men's bodies, which means that a 'one size fits all' shovel isn't nearly as efficient or easy to use for a woman.
But thanks to the work of the two women farmers behind Green Heron Tools, women now have another choice when it comes to farm and garden tools, in the form of the HERShovel, which was scientifically and specifically designed for women's bodies. The company's tools and other equipment are not just ergonomic, but are hergonomic®, and designed to be "easiest, safest, most comfortable and most effective for women".
After years of farming and talking with other women farmers, and sharing frustrations about the tools they used, Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger saw an opportunity to bridge the gender tool gap by developing a line of tools and equipment that would work better for women, because they were designed with women's bodies in mind.
The two applied for, and received, a series of grants (Small Business Innovation Research grants) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop their ideas, and as part of the process, they arranged to videotape women farmers as they shoveled, which revealed that women tended to use tools very differently than men did.
Everything from the angle that women put the shovel into the ground to the amount of energy expended while shoveling was analyzed, and the result of the research was the development of the HERShovel, which weighed less, was angled differently, had a large D-shaped handle, and required less energy to use.
According to an interview at Modern Farmer, this new tool was the first ever shovel to be ergonomically designed for women.
For two years, the partners and their researchers pulled shovels off the shelf at places like Lowe’s and Home Depot and sent women into the fields with them to monitor how they used them, including measuring the CO2 exchange in their breathing to determine the calorie burn required of different shovel types. They ultimately designed a shovel with a large definition, angled blade, and large D-handle (available in three sizes) that weighs only four pounds. “Our shovel required the least energy to use," Adams remarks. “There was real science behind it." - Modern Farmer
The HERShovel is sourced and made in the USA, with the blade made from recycled steel, the ash for the handle coming from a Appalachian Hardwood Verified Sustainable forest, and because the shovel is designed and built to last, it also comes with a 10-year limited warranty. The shovels come in three sizes (because even among women, one size does not fit all), and sell for $64.99.
Since the launch of the HERShovel, this tool has been Green Heron Tool's best selling item, with great feedback from its users, and the company now carries and sells other ergonomic tools for women that were designed outside the company. The team of Adams and Brensinger is currently getting ready to bring about another renaissance in ergonomic farm tools for women, this time with a new type of lightweight battery-powered tiller, which uses conical blades instead of the conventional tines. The new design is said to not vibrate as much, as other tillers do, and to be gentler on both the soil and the user.
You can find out more about the shovel scientifically designed for women, and other handy hergonomic® farm tools, at Green Heron Tools, and if you have any anecdotes about frustrations with 'one size fits all' tools, please leave us a comment below.
[H/T to Grist]