SENECA FALLS — Anyone who has ever picked up large rocks by hand knows how menial — and physically demanding — that task can be, especially on a hot and muggy day like Tuesday.
People who want to make that job easier, or eliminate it completely, got a look at the machinery that makes it possible at Empire Farm Days.
Stone-crushing demonstrations by Bugnot, a French company, drew dozens of people who saw rocks the size of flat footballs reduced to stones that would easily fit in the palm of your hand. Smaller stones were pulverized, turned to powder that went into the churned-up soil.
“This is a one-shot job for people who don’t want to rake or pick up stones,” said Philippe Goubau, a Canadian who is director of Bugnot North America. “You do this once in a field and you are done for life.”
Goubau’s father, Charles, who moved from Belgium to Canada in the 1970s, also works for Bugnot North America. They live in Lefaivre, Ontario, about an hour away from the Canadian capital of Ottawa.
Philippe Goubau said his parents started a dairy farm in Lefaivre after moving from Belgium, and later bought farmland about 30 miles from Lefaivre to grow cash crops.
“They knew the land was a little rocky, but the farmer they bought it from said it wasn’t so bad,” Philippe said. “It turned out to be a rock pit.”
On a subsequent trip to Europe, Charles Goubau bought a Bugnot stone crusher and took it back home to Canada.
“He studied the market and said there must be a better solution to raking and picking rocks,” Philippe said. “He ran that thing for many years. He thought, ‘If I need this, other people would too.’ “
Philippe, who was a mining engineer in central Canada, joined his father at Bugnot North America about five years ago.
The stone crusher goes behind a tractor and churns up an area about 8-10 inches deep. Stones on the surface are crushed, as well as those well below the surface. Fragments of large stones, including ones as large as basketballs, are turned into golf-ball sized stones. Those smaller stones can be pulverized by going over the area again.
Philippe said the smaller stones turned to powder contain minerals, including lime (calcium), that are beneficial to the soil.
He noted that crushing stones also improves drainage in a farm field.
The crushers range in width from 4 feet to 10 feet, with the bigger size generally used by building contractors and developers to clear land of large stones. They range in price from approximately $27,000 to $100,000.
Bugnot also makes and sells forestry mulchers.
Wayne Brown, a farmer from the Elmira area, was intrigued by the stone crusher.
“We have lots of rocks in the area where I live,” he said.