Over the last few weeks of my internship I've had the opportunity to do a little bit of everything, from weeding to fundraising. I've even gotten to take part in the D.C. Farm-to-School Week festivities and do some teaching with students during our ongoing field trips at the farm.
All of which has been fairly new to me. But nothing more so than what I got to do on Friday. Behold, the hand tractor.
Complete with pull-start, clutch, gear shift, and kill-switch. (No cup-holder though.) I'm told these run in the thousands of dollars. If you're like me you're thinking, "I can do triple-digit speeds on a motorcycle for that price. What can this thing do?"
Here's what it can do.
It tilled those rows in a fraction of the time it would have taken us without it. We rarely use machines at the farm, but some larger tasks require it. With that task complete, we were able to plant some oats to occupy that space for the winter.
We also used it to clear a patch of grass in the Groundhog Garden. This gives an even better idea of its usefulness.
Believe it or not this simple task was actually much harder, for the hand tractor and its operators alike. Soil under grass is denser and more compact without the aeration that tilling affords it. It is easy to think of a healthy lawn as a blank slate for agriculture. Actually, it can be a hindrance, albeit a remediable one.
What you see in this picture is also a microcosm of what we are doing at Arcadia. That is, turning unused spaces into productive ones. With conscientious soil improvement efforts, a few common tools and a little elbow grease, these neglected spaces can help create a more sustainable local food system.