I never thought simple garden tools require intricate research for gender specificity, till one day I went through the website of Green Heron Tools in the US wherein Adams and Brensinger promoters of this company feel. Systematic research to design garden tools for women is a must. ‘And, it’s about time farm and garden tools broke out of ‘one size fits all’ model where these two women farmers of the US are bridging the gender gap by designing tools specifically for women.
For, even if we all are equal, we are not equally sized or proportioned, because of the striking differences between women and men’s bodies. The tools that work efficiently in a man’s hands may not be that efficient in a women’s hand and so it could even be a health hazard. For example,
According to Green Heron Tools. A women’s body tends to have a lot less upper body strength, less of lower body strength, a lower center of gravity, proportionally shorter limbs, smaller hands and less grip strength than men’s bodies, which means that a ‘one size fits all’ shovel isn’t nearly as efficient or easy to use for a woman.
DESIGN AND MANUFACTURE OF HERSHOVEL
But thanks to the work of these two women farmers behind Green Heron Tools. Women now have another choice when it comes to farm and garden tools, in the form of the HERShovel, which was scientifically and specifically designed for women’s bodies. The company’s tools and other equipment are not just ergonomic, but are hergonomic, and designed to be “easiest, safest, most comfortable and most effective for women.”
After years of farming and talking with other women farmers, and sharing their frustrations about the tools they used. Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger saw an opportunity to bridge the gender tool gap by developing a line of tools and equipment that would work better for women, because they were designed with women’s bodies in mind. The two applied for, and received, a series of grants (Small Business Innovation Research grants) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop their ideas, and as part of the process, they arranged to videotape women farmers as they shoveled, which revealed that women tended to use tools very differently than men did. Everything, from the angle that women put the shovel into the ground to the amount of energy expended while shoveling was analyzed, and the result of the research was the development of the HERShovel, which weighed less, was angled differently, had a large D-shaped handle, and required less energy to use. According to an interview at Modern Farmer, this new tool was the first ever shovel to be ergonomically designed for women.
For two years, the partners and their researchers pulled shovels off the shelf at places like Lowe’s and an online survey and a female focus group told Adams and Brensinger what they didn’t like about the tools they used as it was too heavy, too long and awkward. Thereafter working with Agricultural Engineers and a specialist in ergonomics at Pennsylvania State University, they designed and tested various prototypes. The HERS shovel/spade hybrid that resulted features an angled blade because “women don’t use a shovel the way men do,” says Adams. “Men power down straight. Most women can’t so that. Women put the shovel blade into the soil at an angle and take small bites.”
Once they had a prototype, it was time to test the theory that a properly designed shovel is less tiring to use. Subjects donned oxygen sensors to measure the energy expended using the HERS shovel prototype versus others, and started digging. The proof was in: HERS required less effort.
HERS weighs less than 4 ½ pounds and comes in three shaft lengths. Its foot is larger than the normal. The hollow, D shaped handle is tilted for leverage and textured to reduce slippage. Every part of the shovel is sourced and made in the US. If HERS is a success, the pair will develop more long-handled tools.
Adams and Brensinger didn’t start Green Heron Tools to get rich, but to fulfill a vocation: to make women’s lives easier and better, and to bring more women back to the land. “It’s a public health issue.’ Adam says. “If women can garden without pain or risk of injury, they can garden longer. I want to be able to garden for the rest of my life,’ she says. Millions of women hope they will be able to, as well.
One hopes in India we too will develop such implements for better women’s productivity.