Great Farming and Gardening Tools for Women

The owners of Green Heron Tools talk about their research on women and tool use, and the need to design farm and garden tools with women in mind.

| February 14, 2011

  • Green Heron Tools
    Liz Brensinger (left) and Ann Adams (right) are the co-owners of Green Heron Tools, a company that specializes in farm and garden tools for women. Both women come from public health backgrounds, and have a strong interest in how better tool design can prevent injuries among farmers and gardeners.
  • Garden Tools
    Many of us view farm and garden tools as one-size-fits-all, but you will always get the best results with tools appropriately sized for your height and arm length, among other important factors. Finding tools that are efficient and ergonomic can be a real challenge, especially for women.
  • Green Heron
    The green heron is one of the few birds known to use tools.
  • Wheel Hoe
    Liz Brensinger of Green Heron Tools demonstrates a wheel hoe sold by her company. One of the many features of this hoe is that it can easily be adjusted to fit the height of the user.

  • Green Heron Tools
  • Garden Tools
  • Green Heron
  • Wheel Hoe

I met Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger, owners of Green Heron Tools, at the 2010 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, Pa., last September, and I had the opportunity to hear their very interesting presentation on farm and garden tools for women.

Ann and Liz, who both come from public health backgrounds, have been examining the general problem of how to make tools more ergonomic to prevent injuries. But their main focus is on a specific issue: Helping women find farm and garden tools that are better suited to their needs. This means tools that are appropriately sized for a woman’s height and arm length, but also tools found to be more ergonomic and efficient, based on field testing by female farmers and gardeners.

I recently followed up with Ann and Liz to learn more about their business, and their research on women and tools. Here’s what they had to say about why all farmers and gardeners need better tools, and why good farm tools for women are especially hard to find.

How would you describe Green Heron Tools? 

Liz: It’s a small business devoted to providing high-quality agricultural and gardening tools and equipment for women. Basically it grew out of our own experiences as market growers — needing to find tools that were better than the ones we had.

We had worked in public health for many years, so we were very clear about the connection between tools and health and safety. We also knew that a tool works best when it fits the person using it. Quite honestly, we were flabbergasted to discover that virtually all the equipment out there had been designed for men — or for some average user who looked a lot more like a man than a woman. So most tools and equipment don’t fit women very well, or work as well for women as they could and should.

9/2/2011 6:24:08 PM

I attended a USDA grant awardee conference with Green Heron and so I am familiar with their endeavor. I would like to add that the USDA very carefully evaluates the company and people involved as well as their R&D criteria, method and techniques before these types of grants are awarded. You can be assured that their products will be well researched and properly designed and tested. I am thrilled at their success, and particularly that I will finally be able to clean out my barn with better tools! Best wishes, and thanks to the USDA SBIR program for supporting these types of efforts.

2/26/2011 10:40:57 PM

I'm 53, male, 5' 8", 170 pounds. I hardly ever "drive a shovel into the ground with my arms". I step on it and use my whole body weight, sometimes with both feet if needed. And I use a good long, strong, handle so I have plenty of leverage for prying out the dirt. I manage about 6 cubic feet an hour in tough soil, less in glacial till hardpan, more in soft loam. My wife prefers a short "D-Handle" spade type and bends over a lot more. My back and I like to avoid bending over while applying force. The only time I "drive" a shovel is when I'm using it to chip at hard pan and don't want to go get the digging bar.

Keith Karolyi
2/16/2011 10:39:31 PM

I'm a 57 year old man and it's amazing how many tools have not been designed for how human hands really work,; male or female. Everything from pliers to scissors have been designed in a straight line making them easy and basic to manufacture but requiring one to bend and twist their wrist at an unnatural angle to make them work. I recently found a garden trowel marketed as an "Asian trowel" that finally turned the blade at a 90 degree angle to the handle and had it curve back to a point. it turned the tool into three different tools while saving my wrist joints from getting torn up. Glad to see these women are carrying the idea of ergonomics that one step further. Keep up the good work!

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