Scaling Up

Improving Worker Comfort and Efficiency

April 9, 2015

Perkins’ Good Earth Farm is a small family farm that operates on 19 acres. They currently grow only one-quarter acre of organic garlic but hope to increase their productivity in this area by 50 percent. Two major challenges in achieving this goal are the cost of additional labor and worker comfort during planting and harvesting.

On their farm, the Perkins plant all of their garlic by hand, which is strenuous physical labor. When they assessed their practices, they found that 59 percent of total labor cost and time are spent planting, harvesting, and mulching. Since planting is the most difficult physically demanding aspect of the work, the Perkins applied for an NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher grant to explore a way to reduce discomfort and prevent injury.

The Perkins decided that a cart could ease labor fatigue and increase productivity without the need of additional staff. They worked with students from Purdue University to complete a literature and industry review of current sustainable agriculture solutions to labor efficiency, which related to lying down, sitting-harvest, and planting carts. From this information, the Perkins and students designed a cart specific to garlic production.

Purdue students found that cart options did exist but the type that suited garlic production was cost-prohibitive. They started planning a garlic cart that could work with a tall living cover crop, could handle a small to medium scale operation, and could be used in multiple tasks of the production process.

The design and prototype of this garlic planting and harvesting cart have been created, but it is not yet fully functional. When the cart is in operation the Perkins expect to see great improvement in decreasing worker fatigue and planting time.


View the Perkins' presentation on this project, from the 2014 Farmers Forum, through NCR-SARE's YouTube playlist. Visit for this and other videos.

Want more information? See the related SARE grant:

Topics: Conservation Tillage, Cover Crops, Crop Production, Cropping Systems, Farm Business Management, Garlic, Labor/Employment, No-Till, Organic Agriculture, Vegetables
Related Locations: North Central