We are a small 50-acre farm with mostly woods and woodsy pasture. We are not organic certified, but practice organic methods. We have two gardens totaling roughly six to seven acres and are considering buying 100 acres of additional land connected to our farm to expand into other markets and opportunities.
We currently do hand cultivating, hand seeding, and hand transplanting, with the tractor used for plowing, rototilling, and soil prep things. We’d like to transition to machine cultivation, harvesting, etc. but there aren’t many farms around us that are in this transition period. We would like to remain as self-sufficient as possible. Can you provide any insight? If it’d be helpful, here are some of the things we wish to expand: field corn (10 acres), sweet corn (5-10 acres), carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and leeks.
Making the jump from basically a hand operation to a mechanized system will take careful consideration, especially when you think about the diversity of crops you’ll be dealing with. Looks like you’re considering everything from potatoes to carrots and corn to leeks; that’s a broad range. Purchasing equipment, new or used, is a serious commitment and you’ll be living with your decisions for some time. I would suggest a few steps in thinking through the process:
1. Begin by asking yourself some important questions and write down the answers; what resources do I have (don’t forget time), what size fields do I have, what’s my soil like, will I be using cover crops, do I need to incorporate compost or manure, how much equipment storage room do I have, etc.
2. Visit trade shows at winter events like the Missouri Organic Growers Conference or the MOSES event in Wisconsin to meet other farmers in your situation, talk to experts on the subject, and simply learn.
3. Look at equipment suppliers online like Market Farm Implement.
4. Consider flexibility in your equipment, i.e. being able to plant small seeded and large seeded crops with the same planter will save money in the long run, fully adjustable cultivators for multi-row spacing of different crops etc.
5. Try and set up your farm with similar spacing for tractors. Our farm is set up for 30 inch rows; we can plant on multiples of two or split rows and go to 15 inches without changing the tires and wheels on the tractor.