Food production: planting stick

Food production: planting stick
2016. Woman with a planting stick. 2016. La Aldea de San Nicolás (Gran Canaria) © "Proyecto Cultural de Desarrollo Comunitario de La Adea"

Food production: planting stick

A planting stick is a simple farm tool for making a hole in the ground for a seed or plant, so that it germinates and rows correctly. It is a stick or branch, sometimes chestnut or heather, folded in the shape of a walking-stick with a handle at one end and a point at the other. This tool, which has lived on until the present, has undergone some changes, as in the Canary Islands where the wooden point has a metal piece like a spoon attached, which obviously increases the size of the hole for the seed or plant.

This simple implement has been widely used in farming tasks like digging, and, until recently, was still used in the Canary Islands where it has several names.  In Tenerife, specifically in the Orotava Valley, it is called a “stake”, in La Aldea de San Nicolás (Gran Canaria),”plantón” and in Hermigua (La Gomera) “planting stick”.

Its continued use is a clear example of the timelessness of ethnography, because since the birth of Prehistoric farming societies, we know of the use of this simple but essential manual tool for digging the earth before planting or sowing, especially in soft soils and small plots.

Those in charge of using them to plant were usually women, while men were in charge of turning over the earth with ploughs or hoes before planting.

Nowadays we can say that it has fallen into disuse, although there are sill women who, not so long ago, used it to plant corn or “millo” as they say in the Canaries. Its use in these islands lasted until the 1970s, for planting tomatoes by sharecroppers in the large plantations for export. The poverty of the sharecropper (day labourer) who lived next to the fields in small lodgings, and the cheap labour, which employed boys and girls too, meant that tools were very simple, but functional, although using them meant a great effort as it meant bending over towards the ground to do the planting.

The use of this insignificant but highly useful implement has only been documented in the Peninsula in Losar de la Vera (Cáceres) where it is known as an “estaquilla” (Mingote, J.L. Catalogue of Farm Tools MPE, pag. 111), but this does not mean it was not used elsewhere.

Francisco Mireles, FEDAC (Foundation for the Ethnography and Development of Canarian Crafts)
Consolación González, UAM (Autonomous University of Madrid)