Being a small-scale farmer requires a unique set of tools. There is a must-have list of tools for every market garden. Developing a human-scale farm means finding the most helpful tools for increasing efficiency and success on a small-acreage. These are most commonly hand tools that are well-designed for a biointensive farm model. Ideally, they should each complement one another to enhance their overall value for your work and help you grow top-quality crops.
Based on Jean-Martin Fortier’s experience, here are the top 5 tools for every market garden:
The tool that inspired the name of Jean-Martin and Maude-Hélène’s farm, Les Jardins de la Grelinette. Broadforks are used to aerate the soil and to promote good drainage and root growth for the crops. Out of farm tools, they’re a more economical investment, and you can learn more about what they are and why you need one here.
Jean-Martin loves broadforks so much, he created his own! Through Growers & Co., Jean-Martin’s new tool and apparel company, you can find a broadfork that is specifically designed to support the model of farming that he practices, using 30 in wide, 100 ft beds.
UV-Treated Polyethylene Silage Tarps
As discussed in Jean-Martin’s book, The Market Gardener, silage tarps work wonders to reduce weed pressure and preserve soil fertility. Have an empty bed waiting to be planted? Need to speed up the decomposition process of remaining crop residue? By covering the bed with a silage tarp and leaving it on for a minimum of 2 weeks (3 if it isn’t summertime), you’ll notice how helpful they can be. It’s a game-changer, trust us.
You won’t find any big looming tractors on Jean-Martin’s farms. Instead, you’ll find a BCS. This type of two-wheeled, walk-behind tractor is particularly effective for small-scale farms. It can allow you to quickly and efficiently prepare beds with just one pass! Powered by a Honda engine, it also offers a range of functions, with removable attachments that can support everything from crop incorporation to breaking ground. Keep an eye out for the BCS America Model 853, which is compatible for growers working on 30 in (75 cm) permanent beds.
Keep in mind too – Masterclass students get substantial discounts on the BCS Tractor and many other essential tools and equipment for the small farm!
This is the most commonly used attachment for Jean-Martin’s BCS tractor – instead of using the rear tine tiller that usually comes equipped on walking tractors, the rotary power harrow is more uniquely designed, offering multiple sets of tines that rotate on a vertical axis. This allows the soil to be worked in a more gentle way. Unlike a rototiller, the power harrow works the soil by stirring it instead of mixing it, and thus inverting the soil layers and causing compression, which can lead to a hardpan.
Bed Preparation Rake
The best way to keep your beds neat and tidy? Make sure you have a flat rake to use as the last step of your bed preparation. In order to clear the various rocks and debris that can gather on the soil, this tool will help you clear everything away and allow your seedlings to thrive!
This is such a commonly used tool at Jean-Martin’s farms that he was inspired to create one for Growers & Co! The Market Gardener’s bed preparation rake is approximately 30 in (75 cm) wide and is lightweight, yet durable and easy to use.
As mentioned, it’s pretty hard to choose top tools for every market garden. Each tool is part of an intricate system to support your farm – as there are many others that Jean-Martin likes to use. Consider joining The Market Gardener Masterclass if you’d like to participate in a video tour of Jean-Martin’s tool shed where he shares all of his favorite equipment and demonstrates how he uses each tool to save time, get better results and be more efficient.