Last week Robert King shared an excellent article about how to choose the best tractor for your farm. He gave some great advice regarding the sizing and equipment you might need. This article is an attempt to offer my perspective on the topic.
If you are a new tractor owner, like I was 2 years ago, then you need to do some research online, with a dealer, and preferably in a field test-driving one. It’s hard to know what you need or want if you don’t know anything about tractors.
Robert prefers big green and yellow tractors. I knew I wanted an orange one from the get-go. I bought a slightly used 56 horse Kubota (4wd) with 14 hours on it. It came with a commercial grade 7’ bushhog and a front-end loader. I have about 25 acres of open fields on my farm and about 5-6 acres of food plots on the property I lease for hunting. The feature I love most on my tractor is called “shuttle shift”. You can shift from forward to reverse without shifting out of gear. It makes backing up for mowing very easy. I have some steep hills on my lease that I do not feel comfortable cutting side-hill, so I cut them in reverse. Shuttle shift and four wheel drive are very helpful on this steep terrain.
Let me say that Robert is a real farmer. I am not. I am a hobby farmer. My livelihood does not depend on my equipment. My tractor is strictly for property maintenance: things such as cutting grass, clearing trees, grading roads, etc…Farmers do all of those things and a hundred other chores with their tractors. I could easily pay someone to do the bush hogging for far less than what it costs me to own and maintain my Kubota. But I love it.
Many of us have jobs these days that require us to do menial tasks or work that does not allow you to know whether you have actually accomplished anything that day. There is a deep sense of satisfaction that comes from watching row after row of weeds fall to your cutter. There is an instant gratification that comes from seeing a freshly mown field. In fact, I will often ride by it two or three times after I finish cutting just to appreciate the results with a refreshing sense of satisfaction from seeing the fruits of your labor.
Tractor work often allows your mind time to drift from the task at hand. I joke with my wife that I could solve all of the world’s problems if I had enough time on the tractor. Robert is correct when he calls it “tractor therapy”. I honestly believe that many men could reduce their need for blood pressure medicine if they had enough time on the tractor to reduce their stress. (Please do not stop taking your medication without consulting your physician.)
In addition to my utility tractor, I also recently purchased a new zero-turn mower. I did a lot of asking around and talking with landscaping professionals before I made my purchase. I ended up buying a 61” mower with 27 HP engine. For my 3 acres of yard and area that needs to be maintained with this mower it works well. In hindsight I probably should have purchased a 51” mower because a 61” deck is really wide and can scar the ground if you are on uneven surfaces. FYI, you want a zero turn with a heavy, welded steel deck, not a stamped one. They last significantly longer, and will provide years of reliable service. In any case, I love cutting grass with this mower. So much that I look for new places to mow with it, and have actually cut the grass twice in the same week since purchasing this unit.
Whatever you end up deciding to purchase, I encourage you to try to build a good relationship with a dealer or someone that can help you service your equipment. They do break down. They need routine fluid changes, and greasing, and occasional repairs. Having someone on your team to get you up and running again is important, especially for people like us who need things to work when we need them to work.
In a world where time is our most precious commodity, tractor time is some of the best time I spend alone. There have been many prayers prayed, Scripture meditations, problems addressed, and creative thoughts developed behind the wheel of my tractor. Give it a try and see if it works for you too.