From a young age, we’re taught to share. And now as adults, it seems like we’re really putting that lesson into practice — from ride shares to community gardens and even shared farm equipment.
That’s right, in Maine, local farmers are sharing efficient and costly equipment that most could never afford on their own — all thanks to the Shared-Use Farm Equipment Pool (SUFE).
Organized through the partnership of the Maine Farmland Trust (MTF) and the Maine Organic Farms and Gardens Association (MOFGA), the Pool was started after MTF staff member Mike Gold saw a discrepancy between the needs of farmers and the equipment available to them.
So, how does the program work? According to Modern Farmer, for an annual fee of $100, farmers have access these six tools: seedbed cultivator, two-shank sub-soiler, plastic mulch layer, strip tiller, ridge tiller and tine weeder. All of the equipment improves farming efficiency, but is so expensive that it’s unattainable for the average local farmer. For instance, the 1,200 pound plastic mulch layer retails for about $2,000.
“The equipment we choose is relatively simple, fairly easy to understand and operate,” Gold tells Modern Farmer. “They see the opportunity to use that one piece of equipment that they may only use one year or once every few years.”
After joining the Pool, farmers participate in a springtime orientation where they learn how to use all of the machinery. Following that, sharing and coordination is managed via a Google Calendar, which members check for availability.
Equipment can be rented for up to three days, and SUFE does charge members for anything that’s returned late or dirty. According to Gold, there have been very few problems, as most respect the system.
Right now, most of the members are newer vegetable farmers, but the Pool’s number of senior farmers is growing as well. And, with increasing membership, Gold hopes to add more equipment to the inventory also.
For now, though, these farmers are just taking advantage of a great opportunity and learning the value of sharing along the way.
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