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He Built His Own Asparagus Harvester
Stewart Holliday’s modified, zero-turn lawn mower makes it easy to pick stalks from his asparagus field. It eliminates the need to bend to pick spears from his nearly 40,000 plants.
    “I started with a Dixon zero-turn and used 2 by 3-in. steel tubing to extend the frame,” he says. “The longer frame let me move the seat forward and down and adjust the pitch. I bought new cables that let me reposition the foot pedals and controls as well.”
    Holliday framed in supports for a basket to the side of the operator’s seat, as well as another one above the rear. He later added a swivel from a boat seat so the operator can turn to drop the asparagus into the side basket.
    “I learned after the fact that I needed the swivel,” says Holliday. “The seat can be adjusted up and down or back and forth to match the operator’s legs. The pitch was the big thing, to get the operator as close to the ground as possible with minimal bending.”
    Holliday says the picker works great, whether using a knife or just breaking the asparagus off. He drives over the row with wheels to either side.
    Holliday lives in Arizona most of the year, but has developed other practices to make it easier to grow and harvest the asparagus on his Wisconsin farm. Each spring he applies chicken manure and barn lime and disks the patch to about a 2-in. depth. After he drags it, he plants winter rye at a heavy rate, drilling it in 2 directions.
    “I don’t go deep enough to hurt the asparagus,” he notes.
    As the rye emerges along with the asparagus, it keeps his picker from digging grooves in the field. “Once you cut a groove, it is there for the season,” he says.
    When the rye reaches 8 to 9 in., he mows between the rows every week or two. As it gets taller in the row, he will pick the asparagus to the ground and then mow the row.
    He prefers to burn the entire field in the fall, but this past fall the asparagus remained green too late. He will burn this spring before disking and seeding.
    “The asparagus really likes what we are doing,” says Holliday. “Last spring it grew so fast I was picking twice a day from the end of May through the first part of June.”
    Holliday sells wholesale off the farm. Finding buyers hasn’t been hard.
    “I put an ad on Craigslist and had to take it down after 2 days; I had so many orders,” says Holliday. “I had one lady ask for 400 lbs. and took another 400 lbs. a few weeks later. A couple of older guys drove 2 hrs. to pick up 40 lbs.”
    Holliday has since added a walk-in cooler he purchased used from a local school and is considering a refrigerated box truck.
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Stewart Holliday, 6104 W. Gambit Trail, Phoenix, Arizona 85083 (ph 623 780-4686 or 602 908-4868).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #1