Newbie needs advice on reworking old farm

nick_lNovember 9, 2010

My elderly grandmother owns an old dairy farm with about 100 acres of hayfields. The cows have been gone for 20+ years. Some of the hayfields were harvested up to 4 years ago, until my grandfather passed. Since then, nature has started to reclaim those fields. Saplings are growing throughout the 6 foot tall grass. Thistle plants everywhere.

A couple of the fields haven't been worked since probably before the cows got sold, and they reverted to woods. I have been cutting a lot of these trees for firewood, but there are a lot of stumps.

All of the working equipment was sold long ago, i.e. tractors, cultivators, etc, etc.

I would like to start using this land for raising vegetables next year, but I don't know where to start. I have limited resources, and no one to currently help me farm the land, so I was going to start slowly in my spare time, using only a small parcel and raising vegetables that don't require a lot of work during the summer.

I need some advice on what equipment to buy or rent, and how/when to use it. When I was a kid, I helped my grandfather work this land, but it's been over 20 years since, and many things I don't remember how to do, or never learned how to do.

For equipment, I have an old small Roper tractor with a sleeve hitch. Also, a hydraulic pump can be fitted onto it. The small tractor doesn't run great, but it does work acceptably. I also have a walk behind tiller. As much as I would like to, I don't think that I should buy a larger tractor right now, but maybe someone more knowledgeable thinks differently?

I have been told that the easiest and probably best way to reclaim this farm is controlled burning, but getting a burn permit is next to impossible here.

Am I wrong to think it would be easier and cheaper to work the overgrown hayfields than the recently cleared area filled with stumps?

I figure that the thistles and saplings can be cut from the overgrown hayfields. Then the fields can be hayed, and roundup applied to kill the roots of the thistles. Then the fields can be plowed and cultivated, and they will be good to go. Or am I missing something? Is it cheaper to hire someone to do the work, or rent the equipment to do it myself? And about how much would it cost per acre? It would be nice to work 10 acres next year. I would like to at least work a couple acres next year. I could do a couple acres all by hand, BUT I really don't want to. Machines and equipment are around for a reason.

Also what's the cheapest and easiest way to cultivate the stump filled parcel? And how much would that cost?


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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

What you want is an education that takes years to acquire. I strongly recomend that you not just jump in and start trying to farm. You need to know what to do and be confidant you have a good chance of success, and you need a market.
The best advice I can give you is find another farmer and start working with him/her. Maybe even they will work your land with you, but even if not, work for them and learn. There is a LOT to learn.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 9:55PM
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You might even start by renting the land and helping with it to learn. Check with the local 4H people They are usually very helpful.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 10:13PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

This is what I'd do:

Repair the fences and turn some beef cattle out onto the pasture. They will get the weeds and grass down so that you can see what you are doing.

It's possible that the pasture grass is still good and can be brought back into condition. Planting new pasture can be pretty expensive, so if you can save what you've got, it will help the budget.

Depending upon what type of trees, the cattle might kill the saplings, too.

The best way to deal with thistles is to walk around with a sprayer of Round-up and give each one a shot of the spray. Thistles are easy to get rid of.

Only huge farms own their heavy equipment. Everyone else hires a custom farmer to come in and do whatever tractor work needs to be done. The equipment is too expensive to have it sitting around unused except for a couple of weeks a year.

Once the cattle eat the grass down, you can evaluate the ground to see if it is level enough to cut hay off of it. I'd rather have cattle on pasture, but hay doesn't take a lot of work (except at haying time). The down side is that you must have weather proof storage for hay.

Stumps must be completely 100% gone before haying, or you will break expensive equipment.

For a small veggie area, you can simply lay down black plastic or cardboard and by spring, any plant life underneath will be dead and your veggie patch will be cleared for you.

I don't know of any veggies that don't require work. All need watering, feeding, pest control, and a lot of weed pulling. Although, you could cut holes into that black plastic and plant your veggies through that and weeds won't be so much a problem.

You are in an enviable position to have so much land available to use. So many people want to start farming and can not afford the land to do it.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 8:03PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

Are you trying to grow veggies for a garden or for market? Do you have lots of garden experience? Is there an outlet for veggies near by?

Are you mechanically apt to fix old equipment and have tools if not run away now if you can then you can get a decent tractor and enough equipment to farm that for about $5ooo to start

I would start by getting the usable hayfields back in shape a few cuttings and the thisles will be gone run some critters in the stump areas forget about working that ground for now

Consider reading all flesh is grass by Gene Lodgson and any other book you can get your hands on

Best of luck to you

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 6:28AM
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