MANfarmer: The Tools of the Trade

I met a man today…a real man farmer.
Not that I’m fake or anything, but he’s about 75 (at least) and still managing 65 acres in Central Ohio. He gave a talk to my gardening class about “tools of the trade” – hoes, various forks, and ratcheting hedge trimmers. The equipment was cool, and I especially liked how he painted all the wooden handles yellow so he didn’t run them over with his tractor.

The best part of the whole afternoon, though, were his personal stories about the tools.
He would show us his American hoe and introduce it as “Dad’s favorite hoe,” while another was used by his mother. A trowel was “Grandpa Kelly’s,” a tool he said he can still vividly remember using as a child. The manure fork, also his grandpa’s, was used on the family cattle farm, and to this day, he’s still amazed at how the fork fit perfectly into a concrete ditch formed to collect the animal waste.

He loves collecting tools, and taking care of the ones he has. They are a connection to his past. A lifeline to family members he has lost and to new generations born with a love of the land.

I think his dedication, caring for his family’s tools, is amazing. But even more impressive is his commitment to carrying on the traditions of his mother and father, his grandparents. He was most proud of a bill hook his grandfather forged in his smithy. A copy of something he read knights used in war to pull each other from their mounts. I cannot tell a lie; it was pretty awesome. But even better is the fact he still uses it, probably to chop down little cherry trees, among other varieties, I assume.

Are you using some family tools to tend your garden this year?
No matter if you have a small container garden or a 100-acre farm, I’d love to know the history behind your shovel or rake, and how you continue to share this experience with family members that are helping you in person, or guiding you in spirit.

If you're looking to start a tool collection, here are the five essentials for your garden:
  • Spade -you need to dig if you're going to plant.
  • Trowel - essentially a small spade, and handy for uses outside the garden too!
  • Rake - leaves, unfortunately, don't collect themselves.
  • Pruners - cutting limbs and branches can be a scary enterprise, but it's a must to keep plants healthy!
  • Bucket - carry water, your tools, weeds, or dirt in it. I had a baby duck in one of mine today.
Good luck brave gardener! Reap what you grow, and use what you plant!

Andrew owns and operates Orchard House Bed and Breakfast in Granville, Ohio, and is the MANfarmer of FOLK Magazine. You can follow his blog at


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