What Equipment Do You Need To Run a Small Scale Farm?

Running a small-scale farm is a rewarding but tough job and having the right equipment is like having an extra set of hands to help.

Which equipment is best for you depends on the type of work you’re doing, the acreage of your land, and ultimately, what your budget allows. Here’s a list of the most important machinery and tools you’ll need for your small-scale farm.

Tractors and Trailers

Maybe you’ve heard the saying that a farmer’s work is never done. It’s a clich√©, but it’s true. Having a tractor and trailer gives you power, speed, and capacity to do big jobs like hauling, clearing, tilling, planting, cultivating, haymaking, skidding logs, carrying firewood or manure, and more. 

close up of man riding a red lawn tractor through the apple orchard

Here’s a look at what machinery to consider.

Tractors

  • Subcompact tractors are fine for small acreage farms. They run on two to three-cylinder diesel engines with 15-25 horsepower. Most have a three-point hitch and four-wheel drive.
  • Compact tractors weigh less than 4,000 pounds, have three to four-cylinder diesel engines, and between 40 and 60 horsepower. Most can lift over 2,000 pounds and can handle hay equipment. They have a three-point hitch and are four-wheel drive.
  • Large tractors range between 60 and 90 horsepower. They give you all the strength you need for heavy jobs like baling hay. Anything larger might be too big for a small-scale farm.

Trailers

Farm trailers, dump carts, wagons, or garden carts all come in different sizes, capacities, and materials. What works best for you depends on what you use it for.

  • Garden carts can be pulled by hand or hitched up to a small tractor. These are sufficient for light yard work and carrying. Most have drop-sides, making loading more convenient.
  • Steel dump carts are heavy-duty trailers that can handle bigger loads. You can lower the back-end and tip the cart to dump loads of dirt or feed easily.
  • Drop-side trailers come in all sizes and weight allowances and are great for loading and unloading with ease.
  • Flat-bed trailers of various sizes can carry bulky loads like hay bales, feed bags, dirt, or manure.
black garden cart filled with weeds and brush

Attachments

For a small-scale farm of up to 25 acres, you’ll get a lot of jobs done with a compact tractor and these tractor attachments:

  • Box scraper or box blades for leveling and breaking up hard dirt.
  • Post hole digger if you’ve got a lot of fencing to do or for digging neat holes.
  • Rotary cutter or brush hog for cutting heavy brush or overgrown grass.
  • Rear grading blade to prep your garden for planting. Pro Tip – Don’t get one that’s wider than your tractor.

Digging and Tillage Equipment

man preparing a new garden area with rototiller

The most important pieces of small-scale farm equipment are the ones you need to dig and till the soil. Here’s what you might need:

Tillage

  • A walk-behind tractor between 5 and 14 horsepower is great for two acres of land or less. They are affordable, easy to store and transport, and they till the soil well.

Secondary tillage machinery pulled by your tractor includes items like:

  • Rotary tillers for primary and secondary tilling, best for small-scale vegetable production.
  • Spading machines that loosen the soil without turning it.
  • Harrows for shallow tillage. There are disc harrows, chain link, spring tooth, and spike tooth harrows.

Digging

If you’re using a compact tractor, attachments for digging include:

  • Front-end loader for digging and lifting.
  • Backhoe attachment for heavy-duty digging and pulling out stumps. Your tractor will need rear auxiliary hydraulics to run it.

Harvesting Equipment

Unless you’re growing large fields of hay or grains, heavy-duty harvesting machinery isn’t a common item on a small scale farm equipment list. 

Picking vegetables and other crops by hand, or by hand-held tools is generally the most efficient practice. There are some attachments for compact and sub-compact tractors that can make harvesting easier, like these examples:

  • Hydraulic hedge trimmer attachment for harvesting fruit trees while pruning at the same time
  • Reaper head front attachment for grass, hay, and other silage
  • Mini potato harvester for root vegetables
  • Reaper attachment for rice and wheat

Maintenance

All farms, large and small, require maintenance, even if you don’t have machinery. The following list gives you an idea about what tools you need for maintenance.

a small tractor is an essential piece of equipment on the farm - this one has a manure attachment in the back - good for animal farming
  • A manure spreader that you can hook up behind your tractor helps keep fields, pens, and other areas where your livestock roams clean. You can take the manure directly to your compost pile or gardens to use as fertilizer.
  • Fencing tools and equipment suited for your type of fencing. Wire cutters, pliers, hammer, nails, you should have a separate kit of tools you need to grab in a hurry to fix a hole in your fence.
  • A complete set of hand tools is a necessity, and some battery-powered tools with multiple batteries and chargers.
  • Hot or cold water pressure washers to quickly clean farm equipment, outbuildings, and feed stations.
  • Sets of metric and standard open-end/closed-end wrenches for tractor and machinery maintenance.
  • Vegetable washing equipment like an automated rinse conveyor can speed up the washing process for products destined for the market. Once produce is harvested, it needs to be processed and stored quickly to maintain freshness and nutrition.

Keeping all your tools in good shape is also important. You should wash and clean them after use. Grease moveable parts, and sharpen saw blades frequently. 

Remember to return them to their dedicated space immediately after using them, so you can find them when needed.

Storage

On a busy farm having proper storage is a huge deal. It’s nice to have separate buildings for machinery, livestock, harvested crops, and feed storage. 

farm hand tools neatly organized and hanging on a red barn

Most small farmers don’t have this luxury and do just as well with limited space. Here’s a list of some storage ideas for small-scale farm operations.

  • Tools and machinery should be kept in a shed or garage that protects them from the weather. Shelves, benches, wall hanging racks, and other tool storage containers help keep this vital equipment in good shape and in place so you can find them easily.
  • Cold storage areas for produce. After washing, store fresh produce in cool, dark areas to maintain the high quality before taking it to the market. You’ll also need special bins, bushel baskets, or boxes for storing different types of veggies and fruits separately.
  • If you have livestock, you have animal feed that should be kept in metal or plastic, waterproof feed bins with tight-fitting lids to keep humidity, rodents, insects, and wild animals away.
  • Water containers are necessary if you need to transport water to livestock in pastures.

What Farm Equipment Is On Your Wish List?

No matter what size your small farm is, you’ll need equipment to help you get your work done. Running a small-scale farm is a rewarding but tough job and having the right equipment is like having an extra set of hands to help.