Considerations Towards Choosing the Right Equipment
Choosing the right equipment for your fresh-market farm requires attention to multiple factors and questions. One of the most important considerations is your ideal scale, a decision that may be determined by availability of land, labor and capital, but also by the type of farm you want to manage. Factors to consider include, but are not limited to, determining whether or not to mechanize at different scales, whether specialized or multipurpose equipment is a better fit for your farm, and how much you like repairing or modifying equipment to fit your needs. Many successful growers recommend investing in post-harvest (washing facilities and cold storage) right away, and in small-scale equipment that will save wear and tear on your body, preventing injuries and allowing you to keep farming as you age.
The following publications are meant as guidance through the process of deciding if a certain piece of equipment will benefit and contribute to your farm enterprise. A good place to start is the Roxbury Farm Equipment Article, which discusses questions to ask when deciding if a piece of equipment is appropriate for your farm. Asking if working with nature can accomplish similar things as a piece of equipment to questions surrounding the long-term value and condition of a piece of equipment are covered in this publication.
A more specific publication when considering which piece of equipment to purchase is Growing for Market’s Six Best Tools for the Market Garden. This article summarizes six useful hand tools for small-scale market gardens as recommended by Jean-Martin Fortier, owner of the successful les Jardins de la Grelinette, a 10-acre micro-farm in Quebec. They include: the rotary power harrow, the Berta plow, a flame weeder, UV-treated polyethylene tarps, and the quick cut harvester. He also recommends a crop-planning calendar as a critical component of successful farming, which is discussed in the Crop Planning Section.
If you are specifically seeking information on tractors, see the Tractor Primer for the Market Farm produced by the Wisconsin School for Market Growers. It outlines an understanding of basic terms and issues for tractors on a small market farm, features of the tractor in question, used vs. new tractors, and tillage tools. Tractor Primer for the Market Farm also emphasizes other important purchases such as walk-in coolers to consider establishing, dependent on individual finances, before a tractor is purchased.
If your goal is to farm for a lifetime and maintain a viable livelihood, financial decisions in regards to large equipment purchases remain a large consideration. Small-Scale Market Farming: Efficiency of Land, Labor, and Time; Appropriate Tools; and Enjoying the Craft of Farming accompanied by the Market Farm Capitalization Budget out of the Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers provides information in order to successfully manage your finances as you make decisions on equipment purchases. The first publication goes over appropriate tools for small-scale market farming through a 1-3, 4-6, and 7-10 acre production cost breakdown sheet. The table estimates equipment needs and costs for these different scales of production at different stages including seed starting, spraying, cultivation, harvesting, labor, etc. The Market Farm Capitalization Budget, a supplement to the one discussed above, lists specific equipment commonly utilized on a fresh market farm by priority and both new and used estimated costs.
Fortier, Jean-Martin. 2014. Six Best Tools for the Market Garden. Growing for Market. Vol.23(3) pp.1-8
Roxbury Farm. 2006. Roxbury Farm Equipment article. Roxbury Farm
Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers. 2005. Market Farm Capitalization Budget. University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS)
Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers. 2005. Small-Scale Market Farming: Efficiency of land, labor, and time; Appropriate Tools; and Enjoying the Craft of Farming. University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS)
Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers. 2013. Tractor Primer for the Market Farm. University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS)