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Local farmers come together to build community plow

By ALLISON MILES
June 28, 2010 at 1:28 a.m.
Updated June 29, 2010 at 1:29 a.m.

Larry Stary stands beside a root plow he constructed to allow area farmers to rid their property of tree roots that take water away from crops. Stary has designed custom farm machinery in the Crossroads region since 1977.

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The large plow that sits on local farmer Larry Stary's property is an imposing sight. With its massive cutting blade and hardened steel parts, it obviously can get the job done.

But the machinery doesn't belong to Stary alone. It's a community plow, shared between more than two dozen local farmers.

The project began as a three-person operation when Stary and two other farmers decided a root plow would come in handy for local producers.

That's when the idea hit them: teamwork. If they found others interested in using the machine, they could share it and split the approximately $4,000 in costs.

"We figured if everybody wants to build it, everybody could help pay for it," Stary said. "We divided the price tag by about 25 people."

Stary said he didn't know how many hours he put into the machine, but said it took about a year-and-a-half of design work to get it just right. Then came the building.

The 3,000-pound-or-so plow can now cut 40 inches into the ground to get rid of excess tree roots.

Roots can grow out two to three times a tree's height, so a 20-footer might generate 60-foot roots in all directions, said Joe Janak, a Victoria County extension agent.

That can leach water from crops that need it, he said, explaining it's the small, hair-like roots - not the thick ones - that do the most damage.

To use the machine, farmers only need one pass down their fields, along the fence lines, Stary said. That one swipe should be good for three to four years.

"Nobody will use the thing over one day, ever, in three to four years," he said. "Most farmers won't need it but about three hours every time they do use it."

Although the model is up and running, it isn't quite finished yet.

He still has some attachments in the works, he said, which will help farmers bury water lines for cattle troughs, bury electrical lines and the like.

"But that will only take about a day to build it up," Stary said, explaining the plow won't likely be put to use until after the harvest. "If somebody needed it for cutting rows, it's completed for that."

Plans are even under way to create a similar plow for Woodsboro, Stary said.

In the meantime, the plow's owners plan to use the first few swipes to evaluate the machine and see if any changes are necessary for the future.

"We'll see if it needs any modifications," Stary said. "But I don't think we do."

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