By Josh Volk

Originally published August 1, 2020


This month’s submission is from Dogpatch Urban Gardens in Iowa and it’s a simple one – a grabber being used to reach Tomahooks obviating the need for a ladder. It’s quite possible that many of you have already thought of this, but I had never seen this before. I love the idea and I don’t even use hooks… but I might after seeing this.

Tomahooks are one method of connecting tomato twine to top wire in a greenhouse for tomato or other trellised crops. They simply hook over the wire and allow you to let out extra twine to lean your tomato plants, if you have a long enough season that the tomatoes get taller than you want to pick from. My season is short enough that I’d probably just go buy a bunch of S-hooks and consider the small added expense of the S-hooks and a grabber a worthwhile tradeoff for never having to pull out the ladder.

I talked to Jenny Quiner from DUG and she told me that she got the idea the same way I did, seeing someone else post it on social media. Unfortunately, she couldn’t remember who, something that happens to me quite frequently. This was their first season using the technique after buying a $10 grabber online and it worked perfectly for them.

Unintentionally the one they purchased had a magnet built in which helps when they’re just trying to slide the hooks over. They used the grabber to reset the twine for about 400 tomatoes on their tiny ½ acre urban farm.



If you go online, or to your local hardware store or big-box outlet you’ll likely find numerous options in different lengths and styles. Many grabber versions are designed with seniors in mind with large grips and triggers that are easy to operate even with arthritic hands.

When there’s a tool like this that is commonly used by a lot of people in different situations, it means large volumes are sold, giving designers an incentive to make both more functional and less expensive designs. I’m always looking for mass produced tools and items like this to build off of because they’re often sold for less than I could buy the raw materials for, and if they aren’t already doing the task I need them to, they’re probably just a simple modification away from that.

Please keep the great tool ideas coming by tagging your photos with the #toolsforgrowingformarket hashtag on Facebook and Instagram. You might get lucky and get picked to be featured here, but even if you’re not think of all the other farmers who will get to see your favorite tools. And go search the hashtag, there are far more great tools there than space in this column!


Josh Volk farms in Portland, Oregon, and does consulting and education under the name Slow Hand Farm. He is the author of the book Compact Farms: 15 Proven Plans for Market Farms on 5 Acres or Less, available from Growing for Market. He can be found at