Rob Rock was one of Generator’s first members and a pivotal part of launching our makerspace back in 2014. Rob is a talented maker, artist and inventor, but also has the unique experience of applying his skills to his other passion – farming. As the co-owner of Pitchfork Farm he’s customized, built, and invented many agricultural machines to assist with farm work. We’ve been wanting to share his maker story for years, and Rob was kind enough to take time out of the busy spring planting season recently to write up his history of making at Generator.

We hope you enjoy reading Rob’s story in his own words.

I’m Rob Rock, the co-owner of Pitchfork Farm and a Generator member. Pitchfork Farm is a diverse 22 acre vegetable farm located in Burlington’s Intervale, and Generator has been integral to the operation of our farm and to my exploration of designing and building agricultural machinery.

I’ve been a part of the Generator community since its founding days, and as soon as I became familiar with the tools I began applying them to farming. I quickly started customizing farm equipment and prototyping new agricultural tools. I used 3D-printed parts to create a high-density seeding tool for small-scale farming. I then began building tractor-drawn implements in the metal shop, as well as an electric motor driven prone weeding platform that allows farmers to comfortably lie flat for hand weeding or transplanting while increasing efficiency.

Rob transplanting onions using his prone weeding platform. 

At this point I was itching to start a company after seeing so many early Generator members launch businesses. I started Upstream Ag and began building next generation machinery for small farms. The tool that really took off was our FlameWeeder, which was a tractor-mounted propane torch that quickly killed weeds without the use of pesticides. I sold about 50-60 FlameWeeders (before it became a little too hectic running a farm and a manufacturing business), and fabricated most of them at Generator. I relied on the plasma cutter to make custom parts, and hired Generator members to help with production since they were the most highly skilled workers in town.

Rob testing out a prototype of the FlameWeeder.

Most recently I have been making use of the Generator tools to design, adapt, and repair equipment for Pitchfork Farm. Recently I repaired a vintage carrot harvesting machine built sometime in the 80s for which parts are no longer readily available. When the lift arm mechanism broke I was able to fabricate a new mount using the milling machine at Generator. For a small farm, this is a big win that allows us to save money and extend the life of unique equipment that fits our scale of production.

The laser cutter and 3D printers have helped me to develop a ‘speed seeder’ which allows us to manually seed a 144 plug greenhouse flat with lettuce seed in a little under one second – it’s a pretty good result for now but I’m thinking maybe I can automate it!

The carrot harvester in action on the farm.

Generator is a treasure trove for anyone working in a physical medium – whether that’s the arts, trades, or agriculture. The tools and community at Generator were vital in helping me through the early years at Pitchfork Farm and in realizing projects that would otherwise have been impossible to make, and I remain excited to keep the projects flowing as I look to the future.

Generator has made a huge impact for me, and I want to make sure other makers continue to have access to their resources.

– Rob

Thank you Rob!

As a nonprofit makerspace, support from our community is what allows Generator to offer a wide variety of programs and provide access to resources that makers like Rob find valuable. Might you be willing to contribute today?

We are currently in the middle of our spring fundraiser. Thanks to some generous sponsors we have the opportunity to unlock a $20,000 matching gift if we can raise $20,000 in community donations by Sunday, June 16th, 2024. If you contribute today, you gift will go twice as far! 

Thank you in advance for your support!

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