The New Pioneer Homesteader
by Lynn R. Miller of Singing Horse Ranch
Last issue, friend William Castle of Great Britain gave us a terrific photo essay of the doings at the 2011 Horse Progress Days in Pennsylvania. We were not able to attend that year and it was apparent we missed a good one. Among the exciting unveilings was this, the Pioneer Homesteader – an elegant all new multi-task implement ideally suited for market garden operations. This freshly engineered design is the result of years of work by Pioneer Equipment of Dalton, Ohio with field testing on working Amish farms. The unit is scaled for use with every size animal from draft ponies all the way up to drafters. It is patterned after the old McCormick Deering straddle-row riding cultivator, with foot pedal articulated steering, but takes that tool several steps further with an ingenious quick hitch tool bar (no tools required) receiving;
- 10” plow
- potato plow
- potato hiller
It’s obvious to me that it would take relatively little work to use this basic frame for other tools and jobs as well i.e. rollers, mulch-layers, finger weeders, raised bedders, special offset hoes for canefruits and grapes, and many more.
Mindful of the challenges of doing precision row cultivation, Pioneer put the driver behind the work for easier visibility. Other nifty bits of engineering include a cutaway seat frame allowing operator to slide into seat without stepping over any railing. The toolbar is in front of the axle so the implement turns with the horses – (instead of behind the axle where the implement turns opposite of horses.) Toolbar raises and lowers while maintaining level position. Wheels are adjustable for different row spacings. The tongue has an adjustable stabilizer that permits precision leveling of the tool at hand. The bushings are oil impregnated.
A little of the history of this project: The Wengerd family, owners of Pioneer Equipment, have been receiving many suggestions and requests from folks as to implements and functions. They conducted two brainstorming sessions with groups of horsefarmers. Frequently folks wanted to know if Pioneer would offer discs, cultivators, etc for use with the forecart. Recognizing that these functions, especially in row work, deserved a tool-bar design with a view towards the close-quarter realities and precision demands, Wayne Wengerd remembered the advertisements from early issues of the Small Farmer’s Journal featuring the Chesaw Ideal Cultivator designed and built by Gary Eagle of Chesaw, WA. Wayne contacted me, we gave him referral information to Gary Eagle and agreed to ship our own Chesaw Cultivator back to Ohio to use in the research and development stages.
In early spring of 2010 the first prototype multi-purpose implement was complete and tested in a small garden. By late fall of the same year the implement received its name: “Homesteader” and was approved by the business partners at Pioneer as “ready for the farmer’s test.” In early spring of 2011 ten more units were built and sent out to different communities in the Midwest for testing. Afterwards, an Evaluation Form was sent to all the people that participated in testing the new Homesteader. Most of these forms were returned to Pioneer by late summer. Numerous improvements were suggested by the users and implemented by the Research & Development team to make the machine safer and more user-friendly. Finally, three years later, they have a product design ready for market. Their goal is to have units ready to sell by spring of 2012.
Occasionally people ask me why I am so positive about the growth of interest and practical application with regards to animal power in farming. I can and do point to increased numbers of Amish who are farming with animal power. And I point to legions of young folks starting horsefarming adventures. But, of course, I point to all of us old timers still passionate about this rewarding way of work. But perhaps the most dramatic examples come from places like the annual Horse Progress Days where it is possible to get a very real and tangible sense of the many enthusiastic and devoted shade tree inventors out there working feverishly to come up with the next good set of useful draft-power tools. It’s nice in this case to see the circle come all the way around.
The Wengerd family and Pioneer Equipment have been critically involved in Horse Progress Days from the beginning, easily appreciative of what that event has meant to their own business venture. Their many different implements have been regular pieces of the equipment lineup and their innovations have fed discussions and thoughts. No doubt that process then filtered through to those requests that started the ball rolling for the Homesteader development. A full-circle, perhaps even a spiral reaching up and forward to an ever brighter future for small farms worldwide. Best kind of solution for the woes of this economy. It’s a good time to be a horsefarmer because our infrastructure is solid, profitable and more fertile with each passing day. Many thanks to the excellent folks at Pioneer Equipment along with all those other equally valuable horsedrawn implement companies.
Following are just a few of the tools available for the Homesteader: