Like “slow food”? “Slow tool” revivalists are bringing back the implements needed to produce flavorful, nutritious food on a small scale — and inventing some new ones in the process.
On February 13th and 14th, a rare breed will gather at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture outside New York City. Here at the famed foodie/eco-farming Mecca, an invitation-only conference will gather the brightest minds in the nascent “slow tools” movement.
All farm tools were once “slow,” but like the heirloom tomato, industrial agriculture pushed them aside with giant combines and GPS-guided, air-conditioned tractors. Slow tool aficionados are working to bring back old-timey implements like wheel hoes, rolling dibblers and sifting broadforks — things useful on the backyard or market garden scale, where the beastly machines found at today’s tractor dealers would produce nothing but destruction.
As Jack Algiere, the farm director at Stone Barns and one of the pioneers of the slow tools movement, once said of his slow food-style farmers, “We’ve designed our systems for [the available] tools, rather than designing our tools for…[the farming] system that we’re in.” In the name of flipping that script, here’s a sampling of the slow tools Algiere and his compatriots have helped to revive.
This tool creates evenly spaced holes in a freshly tilled bed so that you can come back and quickly pop in your seedlings. The offset handlebar allows you to push it without walking in the bed and compacting the soil.
Powered by a cordless electric drill, the spinning brushes on this device swiftly pluck baby greens and deposit them into a basket, saving countless hours of tedium.
The metal fingers on this human-powered device pluck out tiny weeds as they roll deftly passed delicate seedlings.
A hand-powered version of larger tractor-mounted cedars, the simple device plants seeds quickly with accurate spacing and depth.
This miniature plow, powered by a cordless electric drill, is designed to till the surface of the bed into a fine consistency for planting small-seeded crops like carrots.