Farm Equipment: Expanding the Toolbox

Published: 10/6/2018

Farming is a complex industry with intense labor requirements. The good news is that farm operations can become more efficient through the integration of technology and mechanical equipment on the farm.

Tractors, manure spreaders, chainsaws, plows, mowers, irrigation, and harvesters are just a few of the pieces of equipment you might consider incorporating into your farm. If you did not grow up around equipment, or are new to operating the equipment your farm needs, it can be a little overwhelming. 

Talk to other farmers raising your type of livestock or growing similar crops and find out what piece of equipment they think is most essential on the farm. Industry events, Farm Bureau meetings, and farmers’ markets are great places to strike up a conversation with another farmer. 

The next step to incorporating tractors and small engines on your farm may be taking a class on operation and maintenance of the equipment you are considering. Options for classes could be available from a local tractor or equipment dealer, or the Cooperative Extension System. If you are considering adding chainsaw operator to your skill set check with a woodland or forestry organization for classes. 

The scale of equipment should match the size and needs of your farm. Tractors of all sizes and horsepower are available. Smaller farms should consider versatile tractors that are easy to switch implements on, including buckets, forks and plows. Keep in mind that you don’t need to purchase all of the implements at once. You can buy the tractor and most essential implement first, and then add other implements as you expand your operation and profitability margins. 

High quality equipment tends to have a longer life as long as it is maintained properly. The dealer or manufacturer of equipment can provide a recommended maintenance schedule, and many are available via a quick Internet search as well if you purchase used equipment.

Finding used equipment can be a more economical way to expand your toolbox and add mechanical equipment to your farm. Check out the expected life in hours of a piece of equipment before purchasing. For instance, a tractor generally wears out after 12,000 hours. Ask questions of the buyer, including their maintenance schedule. Equipment that has been damaged by fire, water, floods or accidents should not be purchased.

Renting equipment gives you the opportunity to try a new piece of machinery and see how it helps your farm before making a serious financial commitment to the purchase. For some pieces of equipment that are needed on a minimal basis it may make more economical sense to rent rather than purchase. 

Sharing equipment can be a way for farmers to work together and minimize the costs to the operation. As in any agreement, it is best to put into writing the exact terms of the equipment share, and who is responsible for what, especially in case something breaks. Working with other farmers can also help grow your own skill set in tool and equipment use.

Mechanical equipment can save time and labor costs on your farm. Safety should always be your first priority when operating any equipment, and be sure to only use equipment for jobs it was designed to do. Used correctly, mechanical equipment will become an essential part of your daily farm routine.

Penn State Extension
UC Davis Small Farm Program


I'm Jason Callison co-founder of the FarmApp. I started a small-boutique farm at the young age of 41. Like many others, I wanted to grow natural and healthy food for my community. It's through this farming experience that inspired me to create a new farm management solution.


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