ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

Do you have any thoughts on using a reciprocating spader for tillage?

Posted October 13, 2005

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:

Dear Jeff,

It’s a great site you guys have going over there at New Farm, but I have come to expect those kinds of things when the name Rodale is involved. Are you folks currently using a reciprocating spader for tillage? I would love to read some of your thoughts on this piece of equipment if you are.

Thanks for your time,
Eric Willis

Dear Eric,

Here at The Rodale Institute farm, we haven't had the opportunity to use a spading machine. We have had them here for demonstration at field-day events, and I've seen them used in the field on other farms. Those folks that have them all say they wouldn't do without them. They are a little pricey compared to other tillage equipment, but then they are completely different. I have seen them do a great job as a one-pass tool incorporating cover crops on vegetable farms. High-value crops like vegetables may be their best use. They are too slow for a grain operation, where the value of the end product doesn't justify the up-front expense in both time and money. I would say you can believe what you read about them based on what other growers have told me and from what I've seen.

Good luck,


Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him directly at