How to Find the Right-Sized Tractor for Your Urban Farm
By Will Nelson
Urban farming has experienced an uptick in popularity in the past decade, and it’s easy to see why. Farming in urban spaces is a great way to use extra space and increase environmental sustainability. As such, it may not have been a challenge to choose urban farming as a hobby or lifestyle, but determining equipment needs for small-scale farming can be extremely difficult. That doesn’t mean you don’t need one, or should avoid the purchase. Instead, keep these tips in mind as you start your search for the perfect urban farm tractor.
Know how much horsepower you need.
The goal is to match the horsepower to the jobs that you need to do—and anticipate doing in the future. I like to say that the “less is more” anecdote is not relevant when it comes to choosing horsepower. Your tractor should be able to handle what you’re doing now, but have enough extra horsepower to handle increases in work load, working time, and new implements.
Don’t forget to differentiate between PTO horsepower, or power take-off horsepower, and standard horsepower (hp). PTO hp refers to the engine power after its been reduced by the process of getting the power from the engine to the rear PTO. Engine horsepower is the power that the engine can produce total.
The PTO horsepower of a tractor will always be lower than the engine horsepower. However, this can get confusing because most tractors are presented with their engine horsepower, while implements are sold based on PTO horsepower.
Start your search by making a list of everything that would affect how your tractor runs, including:
- Soil type
- Implements used/will be used
- Planned uses for tractor
All of this will dictate which tractor is the right one for your urban farm.
Lawn and garden, subcompact, or compact tractor?
For an urban farm, you’ll be considering one of these three kinds of tractors. A lawn and garden tractor is best suited for light yard work, like mowing grass on one to two acres and towing light loads. Some could have the capability to handle small ground-driven implements, but they won’t have the three-point hitch required for heavy-duty farm work.
A subcompact tractor is larger and noticeably more powerful. This type of tractor is designed for the hobby farmer and has the capability to handle all kinds of attachments.
Compact tractors are larger still, and have all the amenities of the smaller tractors mentioned above. A compact tractor can power larger and heavier implements than the subcompacts can. They even have higher ground clearance than subcompacts to get over rougher terrain. They are often referred to as a ‘small estate’ tractor.
Knowing which size of tractor you need comes down to the tasks you need it to do. Most urban farms require a subcompact or compact tractor to maintain versatility while still getting the job done.
Choose a tractor with a hydrostatic transmission.
A hydrostatic transmission makes the tractor easier to drive; to go faster, you don’t need to worry about changing gears, you just have to push the pedal down further. This is a useful feature for urban farmers because it’s easier to get around tight corners with a tractor that doesn’t require a gearshift. It’s also perfect for first-time farmers because it’s easier to learn how to use.
Talk to other farmers in your area.
Experience is one of the best teachers, and people with experience often have the most valuable advice. Ask another, more experienced urban farmer about what kind of tractor they use. They’ll likely be able to tell you what they use and what they would do differently if they could buy a tractor again. Talking to an experienced farmer is essential before going to a dealership, because you can be nearly certain that you’re getting their honest opinion about what size of tractor worked for them and what you really need to be successful.
Find Your Perfect Tractor
Use these tips to find the best tractor for your urban farm. With this important piece of machinery, you’ll be able to do more in less time and expand your efforts quickly and easily.
Bio: Will Nelson is the President of Nelson Tractor Company with locations in Blairsville and Jasper, Georgia. Will is a past President of the Southern Equipment Dealer’s Association and has been a dedicated board member for more than ten years. Nelson Tractor Company is actively involved in the local community participating in FFA events to support young farmers and coaching local team sports, to name a few.