Last Updated: February 16, 2024, 12:13 pm by TRUiC Team

Recommended Equipment For New CSAs

Choosing the right equipment for your CSA can be a daunting task if you're starting from scratch. There are so many different tools on the market, ranging in price, usefulness, and long-term value. You don’t want to waste your money on equipment that will break down after a few months or will ultimately end up collecting dust in the shed.

In this guide, we cover the most important things to consider when sourcing equipment for your garden, as well as a recommended list of equipment to look into.

Recommended: Read our 5 step guide to starting a CSA written by a successful startup CSA owner.

Find What Works for You

Remember that every CSA is different. The tools you choose to invest in will greatly depend on the specific needs and context of your farm. Before you can create a budget and purchasing list for your CSA, you first need to figure out what will be your overall approach and strategy in the garden.

Here are some questions you should consider:

  • How large will your garden be?
  • How will you deal with weeds?
  • How will you add fertility to your soil?
  • How will you manage pests?

Next we’ll look at some of the most common tools being used today in small scale vegetable production, specifically highlighting their usefulness in the garden as well as over all advantages and disadvantages.

Silage tarps

Silage tarps can be used for managing weeds, keeping fields dry, and preventing sun erosion. However, they’re especially useful for weed management.

Using silage tarps in CSAs / market gardening was popularized by Jean-Martin Fortier (author of The Market Gardener). These durable, UV-resistant tarps are used to kill off weeds through occultation (blocking out sunlight) and suffocation. Weed seeds germinate underneath the tarp, and are subsequently killed from a lack of sunlight and oxygen. This is a huge time saver, as it greatly reduces the amount of weeds that need to be managed by means of soil cultivation and hand weeding.

Another reason to use silage tarps is to keep areas dry. Having dry soil is necessary for direct seeding. If you experience excessive rainfall during the spring, keeping the soil covered with a tarp will help out when it comes time to sow.

Push seeders

Using a push seeder is necessary for saving time on direct seeding. It will save you countless hours that would otherwise be spent seeding by hand. You have a few options for push seeders, but the two most popular seeders would be the Earthway seeder and the Jang seeder.

Among the two, the Jang seeder is superior in its accuracy and versatility. Using a push seeder allows for precision seeding and therefore better germination rates. It digs the furrow, drops the seed at an exact spacing, and closes the furrow all in one swift action.

Field hoes

There are many different types of hoes available on the market, and choosing one is mostly based on preference. Hoes are used to cultivate the soil surface for the purpose of weed management. There is a saying, “Don’t weed, cultivate.” If you can stay on top of cultivating the soil, then newly sprouted weed seeds will not have time to establish their roots and they will die. These are some of the most popular hoes used today in the market garden:

  • Stir-up hoe: This is an aggressive hoe which is great for cultivating pathways that are full of weeds. With a sharp blade, it cuts weeds at the base.
  • Collinear hoe: Invented by Eliot Coleman, the collinear hoe is designed so that you can use it while standing upright, instead of having to bend over. It is a simple hoe that is accurate and great for weeding between plants.
  • Mutineer wire hoe: Designed by Neversink, This hoe has detachable heads for cultivating soil within beds at different spacing. This is a very versatile hoe, but does not work well for soils that are very weedy or rocky.

The Rototiller

Rototillers are used for deep soil cultivation and are becoming less and less popular as more farmers turn to no-till systems. They cause soil degradation and should be used minimally. The idea for rototilling is to soften up the soil for easy seeding/transplanting. Rototillers apparently aerate the soil, but over time they actually cause more compaction. Nonetheless, there is a context for where rototillers can work well on a CSA.

For use on larger scale farms, you will want a rear-tine tiller that has at least 6 HP. Having a rototiller with power-reverse can help maneuver it around the garden.

Two-wheel tractor

While on the topics of rototilling, we cant forget to include two-wheel tractors. If you decide you are going to rototill your soil, you may as well invest in a two wheel tractor. These small tractors have a lot of power and are used to pull various implements:

  • Rototiller. (See above)
  • Power harrow. The power harrow is worth buying, even for a no-till system. It cultivates the surface of the soil without inverting it. This minimizes soil obliteration, while providing a nice surface for planting into. It is also a great way for mixing in compost.
  • Rotary plow. The rotary plow can be used for creating raised beds. If you have ever had to dig raised beds by hand, you will appreciate having a rotary plow attachment for your BCS.
  • Compost spreader. BCS recently released their compost spreader which is great for even compost distribution on a bed.
  • and more.

If you're buying new, the BCS two wheel tractor is the most popular among small-scale farmers right now. Italian made, these tractors are built to last a lifetime and at an affordable price as well. All of the implements on the BCS are designed to work on 30” beds, which is the standard dimension for bio-intensive farming. The rototiller is self explanatory, but some of the other implements may not be.

The Tilther

Another great tool by Elliot Coleman, this lightweight “tiller” is great for mixing compost into a bed or just cultivating the soil surface. It’s not a true tiller, since it only cultivates the top inch or two. It’s battery powered, and can be easily moved around the farm.

The Paperpot transplanter

This new invention is blowing away farmers for its efficiency. It is an automatic transplanter that turns hours of work into minutes. If you do a lot of transplanting on the farm, especially with salad greens, you should consider investing in this tool.

The only disadvantage is that it is not compatible with landscaping fabric, and the biodegradable paperpot trays that it uses have an adhesive on them which is not certified organic. Other than that, it’s a great tool to have on the farm.

6 Row Seeder

If you plan on growing baby greens, this tool by Johnnyseeds is a must have. By running it twice on a 30” bed, you can quickly plant 12 rows with precision and ease. Some crops that work great with a 6 row seeder include: Baby lettuce, baby kale, arugula, baby spinach, and radish.

Wheel Hoes

A modification on the row, wheel hoes allow for efficient in-row cultivation on a bed. They are less back breaking than traditional hoes and work quicker also. Some wheel hoes have a stir-up attachment, and others use biodiscs.

Quick Greens Harvester

This tool is a must have for anyone considering growing baby greens. It will save you hundreds of hours of labor that would otherwise be spent harvesting baby greens by hand using a knife. In a few minutes, you can harvest an entire bed of baby greens; lettuce, baby kale, arugula, and spinach are some of the crops that work great using the quick greens harvester. It’s very simple to use, lightweight and battery powered.