Learn to build a low-cost root washer at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day – July 22, near Iowa City – RSVPs requested


Having the equipment to work efficiently is a critical part of farm profitability. But for beginning farmers and those working to scale up, it’s often too costly to purchase tools needed for success.

For market farmers raising root vegetable crops, a root washer is one such tool. Capable of washing hundreds of pounds of root crops at a time – an otherwise laborious, but necessary, manual task – a root washer can save vegetable farmers valuable time and labor. The catch? Ready-made models can cost thousands of dollars.

The solution, according to Grant Schultz, is to build your own. Grant operates VersaLand Farm on 145 acres near Iowa City, raising vegetables, fruits and alfalfa hay in an agroforestry system. He invites farmers and the public to a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day he is hosting on Tuesday, July 22, from 2-7 p.m. near Iowa City, where he will demonstrate how to build a robust root washer at a fraction of the cost.

The event – “Build a Root Washer for Your Vegetable Farm” – is free to attend and will include a meal of grass-fed meats and local greens. VersaLand Farm is located at 5133 Strawbridge Rd. NE, about 9.5 miles northeast of Iowa City. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please reply to Lauren Zastrow at lauren@practicalfarmers.org or (515)232-5661 by Friday, July 18.

Attendees will learn how to build a sturdy barrel-style root washer from a repurposed double-walled, poly-drain culvert that can thoroughly and efficiently wash potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables. Funds for the project were provided through a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant. As a bonus, all field day attendees will be entered in a drawing to win the root washer, which one lucky winner can take home at the end of the day.

"Making farms efficient without overspending on machinery is a key to profitability,” Grant says. “We're building a $3,000 machine in four hours for $500. That speaks to farmers of all ages and resources."

After a meal of local grass-fed meats and vegetables, participants will tour VersaLand’s establishing agroforestry system, where forage, row crops and vegetables grow between rows of fruit and nut trees. The field day will also touch on topics ranging from farm hacks – where machines and materials are cheaply repurposed – to vegetable production and processing.

Directions: From Iowa Route 1, turn east onto County Road F8W (Morse Rd NE). After 2 miles, turn right onto Putnam St NE, then take a slight right onto County Road F36 (Strawbridge Rd NE).

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2014 field day season features 35 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available on Practical Farmers’ website, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2014 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Calcium Products; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Gateway Market and Café; Grain Millers, Inc.; Grassland Oregon; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (ICASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Cross Seed – Soil First; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Insurance Corporation; MOSA Organic Certification; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); National Wildlife Federation; Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.