Along the I-94 interstate connecting Minneapolis, Minnesota to Madison, Wisconsin there is a farm on the north side of the road. Facing the passing traffic is an endless field of corn, but just in front of the rows, there’s a wall of plastic-wrapped hay bales, carefully stacked into a giant pyramid wall. On the plastic, spray-painted in giant letters for a person to read, even as they whiz past at 70mph, are the words “Without farmers, you would be cold, hungry, and sober.”
A little nugget of truth to think about, straight from the North American breadbasket.
The “must-haves” of farming equipment depends so much on your landscape, crops, livestock, and philosophy. Every farmer will have a different set of necessary tools and tactics because every piece of land is different – that’s the beauty (and the struggle) of farming. Compiled below are types of farm equipment that most farmers consider essential in their work. It’s a starting point with as many variables as there are seeds in the ground.
Mentorship and Land Knowledge
While this may stretch the definition of “equipment” a bit far, it is a must-have and essential first, middle, and final step in farming know-how: learning from someone who is steeped in the specifics of the land, who has seen seasons come and go, who cares about the ongoing vitality of the ecosystem, and who has decades of experience in the same area of farming.
This sort of mentorship and relationship is invaluable, and without it, whatever type of farming you plan to embark upon would be a nearly impossible mountain to climb. Farming is an incredibly difficult, and at times isolating, way to craft a livelihood. Whether it is a parent, relative, teacher, neighbor, or university professor, seek out knowledgeable folks for guidance and troubleshooting. This can promote exciting success as well as deep connections. One person’s experience full of wisdom, insight, quick hacks, and old tricks will be worth an entire library of books.
So now – into the actual equipment.
The tractor might be the most popular piece of farm equipment. It makes sense – as they can be one of the most critical pieces of equipment on the farm. Farmers use tractors for a plethora of reasons including plowing, planting, fertilizing, cultivating, and harvesting crops. Deciding between the different types of tractors is a much longer conversation and any “must-haves” depend heavily on the type of farming.
Often called a planter, seed drill, grain drill, or seeder, this piece of equipment doesn’t have to be large to make a big difference on the farm. Usually towed behind a tractor, a planter will provide precise rows and save you the back-breaking work of sowing the seeds by hand. Planters vary greatly in size, allowing you to determine the best fit for your farm and your needs.
A harvester combine is an efficient machine that combines (get it?) the process of reaping, threshing, and winnowing various crops. A combine is one of the most economically efficient farm equipment inventions that significantly reduces the labor required to harvest crops such as wheat, oats, rye, and barley. But even for small farms, mechanizing your harvesting methods can save you precious time and energy. For example, Jonathan Dysinger’s Quick Cut Greens Harvester makes it possible for a single person to harvest up to 175 pounds of greens per hour.
Whether you’re farming hundreds of acres of land or homesteading on a small plot, farm trucks are critical. They are an essential type of farm equipment for all things loading and unloading. You can move around the property more efficiently. You can deliver produce without renting a truck. And you’ll have a quick way of getting into town for the occasional item you can’t grow yourself.
Wagons are a must-have piece of farm equipment for most people working the land. This is especially true for orchard crops, grains, vegetables, and plant nurseries. It is a versatile agricultural tool to have around. Whether you’re loading hay bales or delivering pumpkins, a wagon is going to come in handy.
Irrigation systems are important time, money, and water savers. Whether you’re planting a vegetable patch in the back garden or maintaining a vineyard, you’re going to need water!
Rain comes and goes – unpredictably and in recent years, not at all. Droughts will dry up a farmer’s chances very quickly. Irrigation systems are used in exciting and various ways around the world for various landscapes and crops. Water use must transition into sustainable irrigation systems, wherever you live.
A hoop house, or even a DIY polytunnel, is a must-have on the farm. These shelters provide a layer of protection for your crops that can make a huge difference in your annual yield. In a hoop house, plants will be better able to withstand weather extremes of hot and cold in addition to storms. If done properly, hoop houses can help prevent pests and disease, all while extending your growing season. If a proper hoop house is outside of your price range, there are a plethora of clever DIY ways to go about it, with help from the internet.
Walk-in coolers can be a critical type of farm equipment for farmers needing to store harvested livestock and crops for periods of time. Part of having a farm is running a business. Businesses won’t thrive if the cut-flowers wilt or the goat cheese isn’t stored properly. Even if an expensive walk-in cooler may be more than you need, there are impressive technologies available today that can help you keep produce cold.
For instance, the CoolBot can turn a sealed-off room, powered by a regulated AC unit, into a DIY walk-in cooler that is cost-effective. Added bonus? You can control everything from your smartphone.
Article written by Siri Undlin on November 5, 2020.