The large range of tractors and tractor attachments that you find in the garages of modern farms is the standard inventory for twenty-first-century growers. However, before the industrial revolution of the mid-1700s, fruit growers and agriculturalists relied on antique farm equipment to help them get the job done. Join us as we review five vintage farm tools that have since been replaced with mechanized technology.

Antique Farm Equipment for Planting

1. The Dibble

Known variously as a dibble, dibber, or dibbler, this piece of vintage farm equipment is a hand implement with a pointed piece of metal, wood, or plastic on the end that has been used at least since Roman times. The dibble was (and still is) used to poke holes in the ground manually for planting seeds and seedlings and is still used today — albeit for small-scale gardening rather than large-scale operations. Traditionally, one person would go along poking holes with the dibble and a second person would drop seeds into each hole made with this piece of antique farm equipment.

2. The Seed Drill

In seventeenth-century England, planting seeds individually or by scattering them over a large area continued to be the norm, although both of these techniques were inefficient over large areas of land. Hand planting — obviously — took a long time to do, and scattering the seeds resulted in a large amount of wastage as plants grew too close together and frequently choked and died.

In 1701, Jethro Tull determined to develop a more methodical system for planting seeds with ideas that he had picked up during his travels in Europe. The first piece of antique farm equipment he designed — and the first piece of vintage farm equipment with moving parts — was the manual one-row seed drill. The seed drill had a plow at the front to shape the ground into rows, a hopper, cylinder, and funnel to direct the seeds into the row, and a harrow at the back that smoothed the soil over the planted seeds. Later on, he designed a horse-drawn three-row seed drill that used wider spacing and large wheels.

The Modern Seed Drill

Today, the idea of Jethro Tull’s seed drill has been developed into the “precision seed drill.” This attachment can plant up to 12 rows at a time and fertilizes the seeds as it goes. The precision seed drill is sold as a tractor attachment that is pulled along by the motor of the tractor rather than pushed by a person or pulled by draft animals.

Antique Farm Equipment for Harvesting

We could spend some time talking about developments in irrigation techniques, but besides a move from flood-irrigation towards localized solar irrigation systems, there really isn’t a whole lot to say. Harvesting implements, however, account for a large number of interesting vintage farm tools that have largely been replaced with mechanized alternatives. Check out some of the antique farm equipment that was much more common before the industrial revolution:

3. Scythes and Sickles

Before motor-mowers and mounted reapers, agriculturalists used to harvest standing grain and cut grass with a scythe or a sickle. In each of these implements, a thin, curved blade is attached to a perpendicular shaft and is used to cut grain at ground level. The main difference is that a sickle is one foot in length with a short handle for cutting small amounts of grass whereas a scythe is three feet long with a long shaft called a “snath” that allows you to cut at ground level while still standing up.

4. Metal Berry Pickers

Our final piece of antique farm equipment is the vintage metal berry picker. This piece of vintage farm equipment consists of a metal pan with a row of spikes that catches blueberries and cranberries in the tray while letting the leaves of the plant move through the spikes. On berry farms today, berries are either picked by hand and placed directly into punnets or harvested using a large harvesting machine that gently shakes the bushes and catches the ripe berries in a catching frame.

Future Directions for Agricultural Technology

A quadrocopter flying against a forest background

The move from hand implements to motorized ones represented a huge leap in efficiency and enables growers to cultivate ever larger parcels of land. However, the quest to become even more efficient is driving innovation with solar-powered soil sensors, farm-management apps, and soon-to-come picking and harvesting robots.

Support You Can Count On

No matter what the future holds, Fruit Growers Supply Co. is here to help you ride the waves of each new development with ease. At FGS, we’ve been around since the days of antique farm equipment and vintage farm tools, and we have the knowledge and experience to help you make the most of the opportunities of today.

Send a message to our friendly team to learn more about our solar irrigation systems and custom corrugated packaging options, and drop by our full-service stores in Orange Cove, Woodlake, Riverside, Porterville, or Santa Paula to view our full inventory of products. We look forward to being in touch and helping you to reach your full potential as a California grower in the twenty-first century.

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