Reely Local Agriculture
In a 2009 report the National Gardening Association estimated that 43 million U.S. households planned to grow their own fruits, vegetables, berries, and herbs in 2009. Tomatoes are the most popular crop, grown in 86 percent of gardens, followed by cucumbers (47 percent), sweet peppers (46 percent), beans (39 percent), carrots (34 percent), summer squash (32 percent), onions (32 percent), hot peppers (31 percent), lettuce (28 percent), and peas (24 percent). They estimated the average home garden size at 600 square feet, with a yield of 1/2 pound per square foot, or 300 pounds per average well-maintained garden. This translates to a food value of $600.
According to a 2010 US Department of Agriculture report entitled “Local Food Systems,” the U.S. Congress as part of the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 Farm Act) defined local agriculture as the total distance that a product can be transported and still be considered a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” as less than 400 miles from its origin, or within the State in which it is produced.
A backyard garden or local greenhouse meets this definition, and is about as local as one could get. Home gardeners, and greenhouse owners, are no less interested in improving crop yields than are large commercial growers.
Terril DeFoor (Clovis, NM) was granted patent number 6,378,246 “Method and apparatus for growing vined produce” on April 30, 2002. Claim 1 states:
“Apparatus for growing vined produce, comprising a container having an axis, a peripheral wall extending about said axis and having axially spaced apart opposite ends, and end walls closing said peripheral wall at said opposite ends, said peripheral wall and said end walls providing said container with an interior for receiving a rooting media, a plant opening radially through said peripheral wall for the vine of a plant rooted in a rooting media in said interior to extend outwardly of said peripheral wall, and support means for supporting said container for said axis to be in a fixed location spaced above an underlying support surface and for rotation of said container about said axis and relative to said support means at said fixed location.”
While invented specifically for tomatoes, DeFoor’s apparatus can also be used with cucumbers, squash, beans, and other vined produce. As you can see from the drawing, a tomato plant is grown by rooting a tomato seedling in a container which can rotate around a horizontal axis — think of a garden hose reel for tomatoes, cukes, squash, and beans. The container is periodically provided with a nutrient to promote crop growth, the produce is periodically harvested from the vine, and the harvested portion of the vine is wrapped around the container. The inventor states that this system reduces pest and viral problems, provides up to 30 days’ earlier ripening, and reduces the labor required on a per plant basis by as much as 50-70 percent compared with tomatoes grown by conventional methods and equipment.
The Patent Office classifies this invention as 47/62R, for a nutrient recirculation system (e.g., hydroponic system) within plant husbandry technologies. The earliest US patent with this classification (albeit a cross reference classification) is number 221,067 issued in 1879 for a water closet cistern. Hmmm.
DeFoors tomato-cuke-squash-bean reel is found within Way Better Patents s' Agriculture Index. Green fishing reels are elsewhere.