At the inaugural BFN/Mass forum last fall, our discussion group suggested I make a blog post about how to find equipment for sale, and where to find parts and service. I've assembled this list of resources and tips which might be helpful. The list contains general information, some local service providers, as well as some regional and national companies. I have compiled resources on:
- New farm equipment
- Irrigation equipment
- Vegetable production implements
- Used Equipment
- Parts in general
- Small engine parts
- Mechanical parts
Sometimes local providers lack the selection or price advantage of some of the large national shops, but it's always worth checking with your local shop first. If we want to build a vibrant community of equipment dealers meeting the needs of local agriculture, we owe these local shops our support. You'll have to weigh the benefits of price versus principle on this question, but don't be afraid to be negotiate a price down to something affordable.
Also note that I am not specifically endorsing vendors by including them here. I've done my best to provide general guidelines for finding local dealers, and mentioned larger dealers as a second option. Tell your local dealer to get listed in the BFN/Mass Resource map!
- Roxbury Farm has an article about finding and buying equipment.
- Vernon Grubinger's classic book, Sustainable Vegetable Production has information about finding equipment, budgeting for purchase, and so on. If you don't already own that book, I recommend it for many reasons.
- NRAES also published a guide to evaluating and buying used equipment, likewise highly recommended.
- ATTRA recently published a short booklet about choosing equipment for the small-scale farm.
- Also, don't be afraid to ask questions of experienced farmers or of any dealer. Most farming wisdom is not written down (though all farm wisdom should be taken with a grain of salt).
Now I'll list some local and regional information for sourcing equipment. There is a certain amount of equipment in our area which is suited to smaller-scale farms. However, New England is not as densely agricultural as other places. You'll find a much higher concentration of farm equipment around Lancaster, PA, or western New York and Michigan. That said, if you're looking for new equipment, you should start with your local tractor dealers. Even if they don't have particular tractors or implements on the lot, they can usually order anything from the manufacturer lines they carry.
- If you're looking for equipment or implements besides tractors, look up the manufacturer to find out where their nearest official dealer is located. For example, Padula Brothers in Lunenburg is our local dealer for Unverferth (makers of the Perfecta harrow). Some small manufacturers sell and ship directly.
- Manufacturers building new specialty tractors for vegetable crops include Saukville and Tuff-bilt—these are uncommon and might be made to-order.
- For new or used irrigation pumps, look up Brookdale Fruit Farm (NH), Nolt's Produce Supplies (PA), or Rain Flo Irrigation (PA). These shops are professionals who can advise you in choosing the right equipment for your needs.
- Rain-Flo and Nolt's also offer implements for vegetable production.
- The nearest major dealer of new vegetable equipment is Market Farm Implement in Friedens, PA.
- Another small manufacturer/dealer is Buckeye Tractor Company in Ohio, whose prices are pretty low (but whose shipping department takes forever).
- Willsie Equipment is located in Ontario.
- There are also many local dealers who have some implement offerings, such as OESCO in Conway.
Auctions: Auctions can be a great way to buy used equipment. Just be cautious and evaluate the equipment carefully before bidding. Make an agreement with yourself beforehand about exactly how high you're willing to bid. Also note that most auctioneers will not deliver, so you'll need to have or borrow a vehicle or trailer that can haul your purchases. To find auctions, my best recommendation is to get on the email list of a local agricultural auctioneer. In addition, check out the resources below.
- Here in Western Mass (and serving NY and CT) we have Phil Jacquier, among others.
- Country Folks Grower (a monthly farm newspaper) always has ads for upcoming auctions.
- There is a farm equipment auction house down in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which holds monthly auctions.
Classifieds: Craigslist, local list-serves, and local classifieds can also offer equipment for sale.
- Tractor House is a free ad-paper of equipment classifieds, usually available at farm and feed stores.
- There are also some online classified sites which list used tractors, such as Iron Search.
Used Equipment: Many local tractor dealers carry used equipment, as well, sometimes even antique equipment. Beware: I never recommend purchasing anything used without seeing it in-person first.
- Village Power Equipment, in Berlin, Mass, is one dealer in old farm equipment and parts.
- Roeters Farm Equipment, out of Michigan, has an extensive inventory gathered from auctions and estate sales—their site is never updated, so give a call if you're looking for something specific.
- Burkholder Brothers is one of several large dealers in used tractors, located near Lancaster, PA.
Parts: All dealers sell parts for the equipment they stock. The same applies to dealers in used equipment, including those above.
A large dealer out of Pennsylvania, Messick's, provides an excellent service by hosting searchable parts diagrams on their website. This means that you can find part numbers and list prices very easily. This is especially valuable for parts that are hard to find, because you can then enter the part number into a Google or eBay search. General searches like that will help you find independent dealers, anywhere in the country, that happen to have your part on-hand, usually out of a tractor that's been scrapped for parts.
Small Engine Parts: If you're looking for small engine parts, you can look up the manufacturer's local dealer to get authorized parts. However, cheaper replacement parts are often available (especially filters, gaskets, and other wear parts) from auto parts stores or power equipment dealers. In the Pioneer Valley we have Cowan Auto Parts, who are much more competent than Autozone or the like. Check your local listings, or ask for recommendations from your mechanic. NAPA is a national franchise that's less lame than Autozone.
Mechanical Parts: Many generic mechanical parts and fasteners can be found in catalogs like McMaster, Grainger, Fastenal, MSC, and so on. Bolt Depot is local to Mass. Fastenal has many local outlets, which is convenient. Always compare prices before ordering. I will often look up a part on McMaster—which will give you a good idea of the proper nomenclature for that part—and then do a Google search for that part, as well. Massachusetts has lots of industrial suppliers of bearings, sprockets, chain, and so on. Your local machinist might also repair certain parts, such as bent shafts or hydraulic cylinders.