A specialized harvest cart for greens

A series of tip sheets on labor efficiency for fresh-market
vegetable growers.

Astrid Newenhouse
Bob Meyer
Marcia Miquelon
and Larry Chapman

University of Wisconsin, Madison
Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project

Stooping or kneeling and crawling to harvest salad greens requires a lot of time and energy. Lifting and moving your harvest container many times as you fill it adds to the work load. An alternative is to build a simple cart which allows you to sit and roll while you harvest. This is less tiring for the knees, back, hamstrings, and torso. The cart also holds your harvest container, so it rolls along with you.

How does it work?

The cart straddles the crop bed or rows, so that the wheels are on the paths between the beds. A seat is mounted low to the ground, between the rear wheels, allowing you to work directly over the bed without stooping. The seat swivels so you can harvest all parts of the bed without twisting your body. Move the cart forward by pushing the rear wheels with your hands, wheelchair fashion, or scoot along with your feet on the ground. Prop your harvest container on the front corner of the cart frame, within easy reach. The front wheel swivels for easy steering.

Harvest cart benefits:

Less fatigue and discomfort.
Prolonged kneeling to harvest, transplant, or weed puts small-scale growers in one of the highest risk groups for occupational injuries. Harvesting from a seated position eliminates knee strain, and is less tiring for the back, hamstrings, and torso. Kneeling requires at least 25% more energy, and stooping requires at least 45% more energy than sitting does.

kneeling to harvest greens

using a harvest cart to pick greens

Faster. Using the cart lets you harvest the same amount of greens compared to kneeling to harvest greens, 40% more quickly.Faster harvesting and quicker time to the cooler
maintains high crop quality.

Harvest Speed and
Posture Analysis
Avg. harvest speed
(mins/3lb crate)
7.8 4.6
% time spent in
unacceptable postures
46 0
% time spent in
marginal postures
48 93
% time spent in 7
acceptable postures
6 7

This data is based on a case study with the same worker performing the same task. Postural analysis was compiled using the Ovaco Work Analysis System.

Less soil compaction. Instead of kneeling or walking in the crop row or bed, the cart supports your weight. Your weight, plus the weight of the cart, is transferred through the wheels to the paths between the crops.

Improves profits. Cutting harvest time can save labor costs. A typical scenario might be that your labor costs are $7.00 per hour, and you harvest 4 days a week. If you saved 30 minutes per harvest day by using the cart, in 11-18 weeks the cart will have paid for itself. If the harvest cart prevents back or knee pain, you might also save money on medical bills.

Where can I get a specialized harvest cart?

These types of carts, designed by Bob Meyer and Hal Bohne of the UW Agricultural Engineering Lab, are not available in stores or catalogs. We can provide plans for you to make your own cart from readily available materials. Some welding is required, which can easily be done by your local welder. Locate a welding shop in the phone book under welding-custom fabrication. Buy theparts at a hardware store or from a tool and equipment catalog such as:

Northern Tool and Equipment.
P.O. Box 1499
Burnsville, MN 55337

This reference is provided as a convenience
for our readers. It is not an endorsement by
the University of Wisconsin.

How much will it cost?

The parts for this cart cost about $150. Labor costs, custom welding or welding shop rental times will vary.

Steel: (1 1/4” square tubing,1/8” $15
wall thickness. 3/32” flat stock for gussets and supports)
Seat: (small tractor replacement) $28
Rear Wheels: (26” pneumatic) $28 /ea
Front Wheel: (10” swivel caster) $36
Swivel: (boat seat) $15
Total: $150

Cart width should be 6 - 12” wider than beds so that wheels will roll in the paths. Overall cart length is 42 1/2”.

diagram of a harvest cart


This material was developed by the Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project, whose goal is to find and share work efficiency tips that maintain farmers' health and safety and also increase profits.

For more information, call (608) 252-1054 or visit our website at http://bse.wisc.

Material is not copyrighted. Feel free to reproduce; please mention source: University of Wisconsin Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project, May 2000; Third Edition.

Authors: Bob Meyer, Astrid Newenhouse, Larry Chapman and Marcia Miquelon, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin, 460 Henry Mall, Madison, WI 53706.

Cart design: Hal Bohne, Bob Meyer 1998

Research for this publication was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Work Efficiency Tip Sheet: A specialized harvest cart for greens