Old School

For a while now, I have been keeping my eye out for an old Planet Jr. push seeder. When I got word that a used farm equipment dealer up in Grant had a couple in stock, I made a point of going up there this week and buying one.

The Planet Jr. is a drill-type planter, a category of mechanical implements that allow the farmer to sow seeds in designated rows at specific rates and depths, which reduces waste and increases crop yields. (Thank you, Jethro Tull — no, the other one.) The Planet Jr. version is simple and effective, and the scale of the push model is correct for the size of this farm.

The Well-Appointed Farmer

The Planet Jr. and other tools manufactured by S. L. Allen and Company were originally targeted to market gardeners and “one-horse” farms in the early years of the twentieth century. As the scale of agriculture increased after World War II, the market for these tools steadily shrank, though it never disappeared. Planet Jrs. continued to be manufactured — you can still buy new ones today — and the original design has remained essentially unchanged.

As smaller-scale farming rebounds, these old seeders are making something of a comeback. Many of the growers I know swear by them. I will use mine to plant crops such as greens and beans, beets and carrots, turnips and radishes and the like, and it will be far more efficient than doing so by hand and hoe.

Push seeders like the Planet Jr. belong to a class of tools — including wheel hoes and over-the-shoulder broadcast seeders — that modern agriculture has left behind but that remain effective for the small-scale grower. And the old ones were built to last. You can still find them around and, with a bit of elbow grease, put them back to work. I have to confess that I like these tools not only because they still work but also because they remind me that sometimes latest and greatest, new and improved does not always beat old-school tried and true.