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Equipment

A visit to your local USDA/FSA. Ag Extension office or Soil Conservation District is also a good place to start to learn what others in the region are using and local sources for equipment. 

Your local agricultural extension agent is your first stop.  Click here to find your local office.


What are the best sources for farm equipment?

 

Farm equipment is most often purchased from local dealers, farm auctions, directly from other farmers, and through internet listings.  A good source of information on equipment availability in North Carolina is Equipment Trader.

Can I rent or lease equipment to get started?

 

Yes. many counties or regions offer farm equipment for rent on a daily or per acre basis. Commonly available equipment includes no-till drills and conservation planters.  North Carolina Farmlink developed a listing of equipment for rent at the following link:


What is a custom farm operator and how do I use them?

 

Many farm tasks can be completed by custom operators. In other words, hiring another firm to complete certain tasks, such as spreading lime, hauling goods, harvesting grain, to name a few. 

What kind of equipment do I need for my farm?

 

Equipment needs vary tremendously between enterprises. The NC Ag Extension website has many information resources to steer you in the right direction.

What are the Equipment Pitfalls?

 

  • Buying equipment that the farm will never be able to pay for. Modern farm equipment is expensive. New farmers often make the mistake of purchasing more equipment than they need for the size operation they have. For example, a modern grain operation will incur equipment of costs ¾ of a million dollars. This large cost typically requires that the investment be spread among many acres (1200-1500) to be economically feasible. Knowing your economy of scale and sizing the equipment to fit that scale is a critical first step. This is true whether you are farming 3 acres or 5000.

  • Buying equipment the farm doesn’t need. This one is pretty self-explanatory. It can be tempting to buy that shiny tractor at a farm auction when you don’t have a real need. Do your homework first, and remember that the bill still comes due whether you use the equipment or not.

  • Improperly sizing equipment for the job at hand. Be sure the power source, implement, and the task at hand are compatible with each other. In other words, don’t hook a 6 bottom plow to a 40 horsepower tractor to till a ¼ acre vegetable plot.

  • Buying all new equipment. Both new and used equipment has a fit, depending on farm size, your mechanical aptitude, and potential use. Used equipment can lower initial fixed costs, and allows a beginning farmer with a lower economy of scale to justify an equipment purchase. Used equipment does require the operator to have some mechanical aptitude though.

  • Buying equipment and never learning how to use it properly. Take time to read the operator's manual, listen to others and request a set-up demo from the seller to learn how to properly operate a piece of equipment.

What do you need know about The DIRTI 5?


When developing a cost analysis for a new enterprise of farm, consider the true cost of the equipment. These costs are often referred to as the DIRTI-5: Depreciation, Interest, Repairs, Taxes and Insurance.


The initial price of a piece of equipment will provide you with an estimated impact to cash flow-when and how much the monthly payment will be for example.  However, a more accurate picture of the true cost of the equipment can be obtained by spreading the cost out over the useful life of equipment.


For example, a tractor may have an initial cost of $30,000. If the tractor has a useful life of 10 years and a resale value after 10 years of use of $10000, then the true depreciation cost would be $2000 per year. Add in interest, repairs, taxes, and insurance, and the true cost will more likely be $3000 to $4000 per year, plus operating expenses (fuel, oil, maintenance) of around $10 per operating hour.


Equipment Cost Sheet Example - Vegetable Farm

Below is an example of typical equipment required and cost for a small 5-15 acre vegetable farm:

Every farm operation relies upon equipment and tools to get the job done …some are able to operate effectively with a minimal investment in equipment, while others require substantial investment. Equipment, along with land, is typically a major cost driver for farm operations.

 

Therefore, it is critical to evaluate the need for each piece of equipment before buying. Visiting similar farm operations to see equipment working, talking with your farm equipment sales representative about equipment options, attending trade-shows and farm demonstrations are all good ways to learn which equipment might be best suited to your farm.

Ag Software Decision Aides

Resources from Center for Environmental Farming Systems

  • On-Farm Infrastructure Toolkit - Produced by NCGT and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the On-Farm Infrastructure Toolkit was created to address barriers, such as postharvest handling requirements, that can prevent producers from selling into larger markets; and to build produce growers’ capacity to cool, wash, cure and store produce on-farm. This guide provides a description of various applications and designs for  on-farm equipment. Download pdf.

  • Hubs & Kitchens: Food Hubs, Commercial Community Kitchens, and Copackers in NC (2017) - Producers may not need to purchase equipment, local certified kitchens can be a source of shared equipment. Produced by the NCGT and UFOODS. Food hubs, commercial community kitchens, and copackers are intermediaries vital to the successful operation of supply chains connecting food that is grown in one area to consumers in that same area. This directory is designed to inform farmers and other food businesses of the location and services offered by these intermediaries. The directory also provides grocery and food service buyers – including restaurants and institutional food service at universities and hospitals – with information on where they can find North Carolina food and farm products packed for retail and wholesale markets. Download pdf

  • On-Farm Cold Storage Training - View the Training Here - This webinar training was recorded on September 7, 2017, and provides an overview of on-farm cold storage considerations, best practices for on-farm storage of produce, and best practices for on-farm storage of meats. Presenters included Craig Mauney, Adam McCurry, and Eddy Labus of North Carolina’s Cooperative Extension Service

  • Pack ‘N Cool Construction Manual and Budget - N.C. State’s Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI) has developed a new mobile cooling unit for farmers. The five-by-eight-feet refrigerated trailer – called the “Pack ‘N Cool” – is designed to keep fruits and vegetables at ideal temperatures during transport to and from farmers markets or as they’re harvested in farm fields. Download Mobile Cooler Construction Manual and Budget.