Rebirth of the Little Farmer Hand-Push Cultivator

Early hand-push cultivators battled weeds in farmstead garden plots.

| July 2017

At one time, the garden plot was a common feature of almost every family farm. After all, most small agricultural enterprises were self-supporting, meaning that the family’s needs were met with homegrown produce.

Today it seems that if a young person wants to start farming he or she goes to a financial institution and borrows a lot of money. If the land purchased with that loan doesn’t already have living accommodations, a large, impressive house is promptly built.

In the early days, just the opposite was true. If money was borrowed, all early activity was directed at getting some kind of crop into the ground with hopes of reaping some kind of profit. Housing may have started in a tent; slowly some type of more permanent structure was built. Most definitely the early homes were about as basic as they could be.

The first thing planted was a garden, sometimes followed in subsequent years by an orchard. A small plot of land was tilled so garden plants could be started. How those plots were created varied by location and individual, but the simplest (and most energy intensive) was spading the soil with a shovel. If a horse and “foot-burner” plow were available, that could be used to break up the ground. No matter what method was used, a garden plot was job number one.

Hand-push cultivator replaces the hoe

After the ground had been prepared, garden seeds were planted. How and when they were watered varied by location. However, when the seeds sprouted and began to grow, they had to compete with all types of weeds. From that time on, the gardener had a difficult time keeping the weeds down so the vegetables could mature. That basically meant long, tiring hours with a hoe.

Hoeing was such a universal experience that our language incorporated a phrase that expressed the sense of having a hard time accomplishing something. When something wasn’t working, the statement, “it is as dull as a hoe” conveyed the lack of adequate resources.