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Finger Weeder and UN Sustainable Development Goals

Wanna find our how small change at the farm level can have global impact?

For those of you who visit the PPC Blog site, I wanted to share my grant proposal submission for this year. It might be of interest to fellow aspirations like me who want to use UN sustainable goals as their guide in decision making. It also has updates on our farm size and practices, so go ahead and enjoy the read!

Finger Weeders for Weed Control and UN Sustainable Development Goals

Farm Information

For the past decade the Garza brothers and the Kims have worked tirelessly to transform what used to be a conventional farm in the deep south Texas along the Rio Grande River into what is now a thriving organic farm. PPC Farms, often dubbed as "people's produce choice", grows the famous Texas 1015 Sweet Onions, organic kale, cabbage, broccoli, beets, herbs and winter squashes from its 400 acres of USDA Organic Certified land using sustainable agricultural methods that include integrated pest management and cover crops. Each field has so much biodiversity thanks to planting design that incorporates insectary strips and companion planting, it can even be certified as a pollinator habitat! "Shintobulyi" is a Korean macrobiotic concept that translates "body and soil are not separate". We believe that vegetable can be only as healthy as the soil that it is grown on. For that reason, restoring and regenerating soil is our top priority.

Project Goals and Objectives

Weed control is one of the primary challenges we face in organic agriculture. Conventional growers conveniently rely on herbicide to deal with the drudgery of fighting the pig weed, purslane and silverleaf nightshade. Organic growers, especially in the region of south Texas where it rarely freezes, perennially fight an uphill battle with weeds that rob sunlight, water and nutrients from the crop. Currently PPC Farms uses tractor pulled mechanical cultivator to dislodge weed. This practice gets rid of most of the weed in the furrows, but the area on the bed rows are untouched. Hand hoeing crew are contracted to tediously remove weeds from the delicate areas around the crop. This process is extremely time consuming and costly, often representing large portion of production expenses. Finger Weeder is an innovative mechanical cultivator that has been proved to be effective in removing the in-bed weed seedlings on farm trials. Finger Weeder will supplement the limitation of traditional cultivator, and will meet our goal of herbicide free weed management.

PPC Farms hope to work toward meeting another set of goals, which are the Sustainable Development Goals set forth by United Nations. The UN Sustainable Development Goals address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The seventeen goals are

1. No Poverty

2. Zero Hunger

3. Good Health and Well-being

4. Quality Education

5. Gender Equality

6. Clean Water and Sanitation

7. Affordable and Clean Energy

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth

9. Industry Innovation and Infrastructure

10. Reduced Inequalities

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities

12. Responsible Consumption and Production

13. Climate Action

14. Life Below Water

15. Life on Land

16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

17. Partnerships for the Goals

We believe that finger weeders will help us achieve the following thirteen out of the seventeen goals.

Zero Hunger- Finger weeder will increase the quantity and quality of our vegetable production by effective weed control. Too much weed on the vegetable beds shade out the crop and take nutrients away from it, affecting its size, quality and quantity.

Good Health and Well-being- Herbicide use will be minimized or completely eliminated, resulting in more wholesome products for consumers, and better working condition and well-being of workers who work in the fields.

Gender Equality- The mechanical tool will eliminate any hiring prejudice which might have existed with employment practices related to manual labor.

Clean Water and Sanitation- Reduction or elimination of herbicide will minimize the agricultural run-off that pollutes our water. This is particularly important as our field water runs off into the Rio Grande River and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Decent Work and Economic Growth- The mechanized tool will improve the working condition of farm workers by reducing the toll on their bodies. Also, the efficiency created by the tool will allow PPC Farms to hire labor in more consistent and constant way.

Industry Innovation and Infrastructure- Use of the finger weeder is a relatively new technology. We know of no other grower in the region who is using this innovative technology.

Reduced Inequalities- PPC Farms is a company owned and operated by underrepresented minority group farmers. Your support of our farm will improve minority representation in the industry and reduce historic inequalities.

Sustainable Cities and Communities- PPC Farms is located within rapidly urbanizing area of south Texas. Finger Weeder will allow sustainable coexistence of agriculture and residential spaces within the community because it replaces use of harmful herbicides.

Responsible Consumption and Production- PPC Farms is producing organic vegetables in a responsible manner when it replaces herbicide use with an innovative mechanical tiller, Finger Weeder. In return, the consumers will be able to make environmentally and socially responsible purchasing decision when they buy PPC Farms produce.

Climate Action- Recent soil health research revealed that agriculture could be a major factor in combating climate change. Elimination of herbicide use in farming will continue to improve soil health, and in conjunction with the use of cover crops, will sequester more carbon into the soil.

Life Below Water- Our agricultural run off water drains into the Rio Grande River and into the Gulf of Mexico. By eliminating use of harmful herbicide, we will help preserve the habitat of aquatic life and organisms in our regional ecosystems.

Life on Land- Herbicide use not only affect plants but life above and below the soil. Our farm is located in a very ecologically diverse area. It is a premiere birding and butterfly habitat. By eliminating the use of herbicide, we will be protecting the pollinators and other creatures that visit our fields and the surrounding areas. The diverse microorganisms which occupy the subsoil areas are spared the peril and degradation that chemical dependent farming has on soil health.

Last but not least,

Partnerships for the Goals- The purchase of finger weeder would not be possible without the funding that your institution is offering. The high operating cost of organic farming makes investment in innovative tools and machinery difficulty. If the producers, distributors and the consumers could come together in partnership to support our project, we will be one step closer to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Strategies and Timelines

There are three types of Finger Weeders that we are proposing to incorporate into our production system. One type is a tractor pulled complete system Habicht manufactured by K.U.L.T.-Kress. This system can be fitted on to our existing farming equipment and cover multiple rows at once. The spacing will be customized to the crop we are growing. This type is most suitable for our organic onion production because plant spacing is uniform, and we plant large acreage.

The second type is Argus by K.U.L.T.-Kress. This smaller type is also pulled by tractor, but only few rows at at time. This system can be pulled by smaller tractors.

The third type is hand pushed system used with double wheel hoe. This product is available through Johnny Selected Seeds.

Timing is crucial. We can deploy the Finger Weeder about 10 days after planting. The crop should be firmly rooted while the weeds are small. Rotating plastic or polyurethane wheels or "fingers" turn in tween the crop row, driven by the steel fingers, dislodging small weeds. This also deter weed seed germination as well as improve water penetration of the soil. Employing finger weeder will cut down on labor, reduce or eliminate use of herbicide in both organic and conventional farming, increase worker productivity and better management of the fields. It is said to be ideal for use in well established brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Research has shown a weed reduction of 60 percent is feasible by using finger weeders. Finger weeders are most effective when stacking with tools that run in front of the fingers such as beet knives and torsion weeders. This percentage could be increased to 90 percent by combining the finger weeder with a torsion weeder.

Budget

The K.U. L. T. Finger Weeder customized unit is about $20,000.

The Finger Weeder Wheel Hoe Accessory ($495) can be fitted onto Terratech Double Wheel Hoe ($425).

We will purchase the Finger Weeder if we win the grant, and can put them into use immediately.

Today is the last day of voting. Yes, I know we are trailing greatly and the chance we will will the popularity vote is minuscule. That does not mean your support will go unheard. Last year, the wonderful people at the Cultivating Change gave PPC farms the second place win on the merit of our proposal. Let us know that you are supporting our farm and our cause by voting for PPC Farms at the Cultivating Change site.

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