First time hobby farm owner needs advise what equipment to have.

toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)February 27, 2013

First time poster and future hobby farm owner. I just acquired a 5 acres lot near Idyllwild Calif with an elevation of 4600 acres and zone USDA 8b (10-15F). Half of lot is a rock hill, rest is flat but half of the flat land is a ponderosa pine forest. Once a home site is cleared, I figure to have about 1-1.5 acres of land to play with. Soil is sandy.

My objective is to have a small organic farm for vegetable (leaning towards raised beds) and would love to have a mini vineyard. I will not be livestock as I travel quite a lot. But I do have a neighbor that boards horse. In the meantime, there will be weeds to clear, trees to cut, and some grading etc.,

Can I get away with a Suzuki sidekick? Buy a snow plow attachment and convert the backseats to carry stuff.

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ApprenticeGardener(7b or 8)

I don't have a farm, but I grew up next to a "hobby" farm that my grandfather and great-uncle tended after work and on weekends. It was about 3 acres total, and they raised everything from rhubarb to row corn. They had a small Ford 8N tractor, a well used disc harrow and home-made chain harrow and a small cultivator. It was near enough to a large dairy farm to collect all the cow manure and "bedding" that was needed, and the folks there even provided a wagon for it (collection, carrying, dumping and spreading became my "special" job). The farm folks also loaned out a small bottom plow when it came time to work in the corn stalks after harvest (which we did by hand).

My point in relating this story is that working the land, even a small plot, usually takes specialized equipment; equipment that should be used, but that you don't necessarily have to own yourself.

I'd suggest that you save the money for a plow and the money it will take to repair or replace the Sidekick after you try to pull a stump or do some grqading with it and hire out someone to come in with a Bobcat with a blade and a backhoe to work the land initially. This will accomplish the weeding and grading quickly.

The trees are another matter, but you may find someone to barter with you who will cut and haul them in return for the lumber value. The Bobcat guy may even have a friend with a chainsaw, or you could rent one yourself (given that the trees are small enough). Stumps would remain, but could be dug out, pulled out or ground down with the right equipment.

The Sidekick is rated to tow a little weight (check yourself, but it seems to be about 1000 lbs depending on year), so getting a hitch and a small utility wagon may be a next step. You could start moving the rocks you dig out of the hill, or moving the "organic" material from a stable, farm, or dairy that may be nearby. You will obviously need some hand tools, but these are surely cheaper that those that attach to any machine.

Your next step may be to get a small tractor and some well used attachments, but you will still have the Sidekick with an intact transmission. (Nothing, by the way, against the Sidekick. It's just that it isn't a 3/4 ton longbed 4X4).

Best Wishes--Carl
Atlanta, GA
ex--Western NY--a true one-season crop locale

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 3:53PM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

Thanks Carl, I didn't make myself clear, my bad. I fully intent to hire help to do the tree removal, grading, digging for foundation etc., I don't intend to do the work myself.

But once the house is build and land is clear, I don't know what equipment it takes to run a tiny hobby farm , lawn tractor? ATV/UTV? a "real" tractor? etc.,

My sidekick idea was just that it's cheap and road certified. I was thinking a sidekick will be way cheaper than an UTV but not sure if it can do all the farm work that an UTV can do? like pulling cultivator, harrow etc., LOL, come to think of it, being a city boy used to suburbia home. I am not familiar with cultivators or harrows. What do they do? I am totally ignorant.

You are right, the tow rate for sidekick is 1000lbs.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 5:55PM
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ApprenticeGardener(7b or 8)

Cultivators, harrows, discs (which I didn't mention), and plows are all implements that are used to "work" the soil in various ways. Info on them is readily available on-line, and will probably give you more (and better) information than can I. What you will actually need will depend on what the state of your land is, so a local farmer or an agricultural extension agent will be of great help.

Relative to vehicles, ATVs & UTVs are intended primarily to move over terrain, with a UTV able to carry a little. Kind of like a smaller Sidekick that can only go off-road (legally). A lawn tractor is just that, a tractor intended to carry a mowing deck. Their basic drawbacks are small tires, low relative clearance, and usually, lack of torque and low enough gearing. A "real" tractor, hopefully with a PTO and certainly with a 3-point hitch, would be better. There are usually quite a few for sale used. Many are fairly simple machines and built a lot like bricks with wheels.

We did all the maintenance on the 8N (a 1949 by the way) I mentioned earlier ourselves and it ran constantly for over 20 years. It was sold to a family friend who used it for another 15 years or so, restored it and still takes it around the yard during summers. It was certainly easier to change the starter on it than on the old Ford Galaxie I drove back then.

Since you are on the West Coast, you may also be able to find a newer Far Eastern-made two wheel tractor that may do, assuming that attachments are available. There were also US made models, with Gravely coming to mind.

Keep us posted about your progress. You have an interesting opportunity.

Best Wishes--Carl
Atlanta, Georgia

ps--I must admit that if it were me, I'd opt for a restored Ford 8N, 9N, or Golden Jubilee. But that's just me.--cgc--

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 4:59PM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

Hey Carl - talking about vintage and affordable tractors, what's your take on Massey Ferguson? It seems like they are somewhat cheaper or for the same money, newer.

After browsing and reading, I am leaning towards buying an affordable vintage tractor instead the garden tractor or UTV etc.,

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:22PM
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ApprenticeGardener(7b or 8)

MF, Farmall, IH, Deere, and others all have their fans. The most important things if you are going to look for one ( a"vintage" tractor that is) are that it is in operating condition, goes into gears easily, doesn't leak, shows no evidence of having been rolled (a more common occurance than you might think), has decent tires, has a support group that can offer advice, and has spare parts (whether used or NOS) available. Less important things include quality of paint, panel rust, missing trim or decals, or perceived "popularity".

I don't know if you have ever done any restoration of any kinds of vehicles, but it's better (trust me) to buy a restored vehicle than to try to "bring" one back to life yourself--unless you are very very skilled at things like welding and metal fabrication and have a multi-shelf tool chest filled with tools.

Good luck.

Best Wishes--Carl
Atlanta, GA

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:56PM
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First thing we got was a DR brush cutter -- have had it for 10 years now and wouldn't want to be without it. Also have a UTV and a zero- turn mower. We have a trail mower that is pulled behind the UTV for higher grass/scrub work.

I don't do any tilling at all --- smother my flower beds and veggie beds with hay to clear them of weeds and then mulch with hay.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 9:37AM
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I have 20 acres, 5 cleared, 15 wooded ... been on my farm for 15+ years. I have a small daylily nursery and 3 miniature donkeys. When I first bought the farm, I purchased a "Long" tractor, because my BIL thought it was a Ford, and all it's attachments, and eventually bought a brush-hog. Then I bought an old Dodge powerwagon with a plow, and then an ATV.

I have since gotten rid of all this equipment, it cost more to maintain and fix, then it now costs me to hire out what work I need. A local farmer does all my work for me, and is very reasonable, and it takes him a lot less time since he was practically born riding on a tractor!

So my advise, wait and see what you will really need once you actually live on the land ... tending to 1 or 1.5 acres shouldn't really need heavy equipment, unless you're like a neighbor of mine who pulls out his tractor once a year to play with it. LOL! Then buy your toy.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 1:45PM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

ApprenticeGardener, Not to step on your toes or anything. But I don't agree with "but it's better (trust me) to buy a restored vehicle than to try to "bring" one back to life yourself--"

A "restored" vintage tractor looks pretty, but doesn't necessarily mean that it is a better tractor than an old ugly one that has been sitting for years and looks crappy.

And the biggy, the restored tractor will cost about twice as much!

I'm an AC fan, since you mentioned that! LOL

I have a lot of experience with old tractors growing up and through the years. I have found that the AC's are more user friendly and cheaper to buy.

They are cheaper because the 3 point hitch on them isn't the main standard that everyone went with, the Ford style. So 3PH (quick hitch) attachments are harder to find.

AC's are more dependable, in my homely opinion. They are not as finicky to start, especially after sitting a while. And they don't break down as much.

My neighbors, friends, brothers, and my Dad had Fords, Masseys, JD's, ETC. I spent a lot of time every spring helping them get them started.

Plus I had to repair hydraulic cylinders, pumps, starters, generators, magnetos, and other things for them.

I bought an AC-CA, 1954 model, about 25 years ago that had been sitting in a field for about 5 years after the owner died. I drained and flushed out the gas tank and carburetor, stuck a new battery in and it fired right up.

I bought it for $1000 , including a bush hog, harrow, drag harrow, layoff plows, planter, and other stuff. I'm still using it and it fires off every time I need it! The only thing I have had to replace/repair were the brushes in the starter and the generator.

Back to the OP:

Look around for an older tractor, search farmer bulletins, and estate auctions.

I wouldn't recommend buying a tractor that has a magneto, such as the AC-B, unless you want to convert it to a coil system. The kits are expensive to convert, $200 the last time I checked, 20 years ago. LOL

But if you are kind of handy I can help you convert it to a coil for less than $50. I have converted several.

If you buy an AC with the quick hitch make sure that you are getting and/or can find the attachments for it.

And as ApprenticeGardener said make sure the rubber is good especially the back tires, they are expensive.

Good luck!!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 2:39PM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

OK as a newbie and being ignorant, what are the must haves when tractor shopping? The little bit of googling that I have done. Sounded like PTO is must have? 3 point hitch? what about a front loader? Since the location have snow in the winter, would 4 wheel drive be advantageous when it comes to snow situation?

I think the 3 point hitches are standardized, aren't they? What about PTO?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 12:16PM
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4 wheel drive and a front end loader will come in a lot more handy than you think. If you ever get used to having the loader you will have a hard time doing without it. Also with a loader you want 4 wheel drive so when you get a load even if the rear tires are not getting good traction because of the weght on the front the front tires will get good traction and keep you from getting stuck.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 5:29PM
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ApprenticeGardener(7b or 8)


No toes stepped on. I probably poorly stated my point. The looks of a tractor have little to do with it's operating capability. But IF you want something to also look "pretty" (a personal choice), it is better to buy restored unless you are very handy. Best Wishes--Carl

BTW--I'd still take the Ford.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 4:19PM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

"I think the 3 point hitches are standardized, aren't they? What about PTO?"

Yes and yes. If you go with the Ford style 3 PH, first developed by Harry Ferguson in the 1920s.

The early AC.s have a different style 3 PH. The PTO is pretty much standard on all of them.

Like ApprenticeGardener said "BTW--I'd still take the Ford." is good advise since you can always find attachments for it. The AC attachments are hard to find.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 2:03PM
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