Equipment rental allows small farmers to profit from ‘plasticulture’
Growing fruits and vegetables on beds of plastic mulch increases yields for small-scale farmers by doubling or tripling production and extending the growing season. However, the equipment to lay the plastic is expensive. The high cost of purchasing “plasticulture” equipment often deters small farmers from taking advantage of the benefits plasticulture offers, such as earlier harvests, better weed control, enhanced water efficiency and improved plant nutrition by targeting nutrients applied through drip irrigation lines.
To make plasticulture production more accessible to small-scale farmers, North Carolina A&T Cooperative Extension created the Plasticulture Rental/Cash Back Program. The plasticulture equipment is strategically placed at county Extension centers across North Carolina, where farmers can rent it for $50 per day and $25 of that cost is refunded if the equipment is returned clean and undamaged. The low-cost rental has expanded the use of plasticulture production across North Carolina.
North Carolina small farmers can now increase their yields and profit by adopting plasticulture production. To date, the equipment has been rented more than 50 times by 42 individual North Carolina small farmers. In 2019, the equipment was rented 24 times by farmers in 14 counties. The total savings to farmers using this equipment was $67,580.