How to choose a two wheel tractor



12/22/202332 min leer

A Brief Introduction to Two-Wheel Walking Tractor

Are you tired of the high costs associated with traditional tractors? Or maybe you're looking for a more efficient way to cultivate your farm or landscape your yard. Whatever the reason, two-wheel walking tractors are becoming an increasingly popular choice for farmers and homeowners alike.

Advantages of Two-Wheel Walking Tractor

When comparing two-wheel tractors to traditional farm tractors, several advantages and disadvantages come to light. Two-wheel tractors excel in maneuverability, particularly in tight spaces and hilly terrains. However, their power may be limited compared to farm tractors. Despite this, their compact size makes them practical for small farms and gardens, offering economic benefits in terms of initial cost and ongoing maintenance. While farm tractors are ideal for large-scale operations, the agility of two-wheel tractors remains unmatched. It has the following benefits:

  1. Multi-functional: Two-wheel tractors have only one engine, yet multiple implements can be used — opening up opportunities for many enterprises.

  2. Easily learned: These tractors have a simple but effective design. They have a short learning curve compared to larger equipment.

  3. Task-appropriate power: Most two-wheel models have between 4 and 13 hp, but some can be found as low as 1.5 hp and some upward of 16 hp. This is a practical power range for many small-scale jobs that are often done with overkill engines in landscaping and farming.

  4. Budget-friendly: A grower can pick up a tractor and all needed equipment on a modest start-up budget. Two-wheel tractors start at around $2,500, whereas the smallest “compact” four-wheel tractors still cost ~$13,000 to ~$16,000. Two-wheel tractor implements cost between $500 to $3,000, compared to $5,000 to $15,000 for four-wheel tractors. Note: All prices are in USD as of 5/2022.

  5. Seasonal implements: The two-wheel tractor performs (with the correct equipment) spring, summer, fall, and winter tasks.

  1. Equipment options: Equipment comes in different widths to match the scale of your operation and with different accessories that can be customized to your terrain and tasks. Different equipment versions suit different needs and budgets. For example, there are more than three types of plows; each has its own merits.

  2. Low impact: Two-wheel tractors cause far less compaction on your soil and use less fuel—while still doing a job right.

  3. Low maintenance: Two-wheel tractor maintenance is straightforward. Components are easily visible and accessible, and there is no need for specialized tools beyond those found in a typical home garage.

  4. Maneuverable and easily controlled: These tractors are maneuverable, well-balanced, small, and have a tight turn radius. This is ideal for negotiating sloped land, garden headlands, and greenhouses. There are two main types of two-wheel tractors (discussed shortly), and both are very maneuverable. The first type, the row crop tractor provides excellent cultivation and seeding control with its great hitch design, while the most popular type, the multi-purpose tractor, has a drive system that is perfect for maneuvering with loaded carts, mowing, and heavy soil working.

  5. Easy storage and transport: These machines are easy to store. With foldable handlebars and a compact size, they can be loaded in the back of a pickup truck or on a small trailer.

  6. Safe handling: Their scale and features make them safe for operators at all levels of experience (with proper training, of course).

Since it has several benefits that we talked about above, it Significantly influences the efficiency and productivity of small-scale farming and market gardening, two-wheel tractors have optimized labor and resources, leading to increased yields. In the context of sustainable agriculture, these tractors have minimized the environmental impact of farm operations while empowering local agriculture. Their versatility has facilitated the adoption of diverse farming methods, contributing to agricultural diversity. Small-scale farmers have been able to compete more effectively, thanks to the aid of walk-behind tractors.

How to choose the right tractor

Remember, equipment decision-making is where growers can make the biggest mistakes or have the greatest successes. Having the right equipment can revolutionize your homestead or farm, but the wrong equipment choices can begin to dictate how you grow instead of facilitating your chosen production.

1. Scale Suitable Equipment

Is your bed preparation equipment the right width for your beds? Do you have the right type of tractor for your quantity of beds or rows? Equipment selection must be scale-suitable for best enterprise management. But of even more import is their suitability to your present and future scale. Finding the suitable scale is a balancing act; changes in crops, labor, or acreage affect equipment type, sizing, and quantity.

2. Holistic Principles Of Scale

The Holistic Principles of Scale shows interrelated principles for land management decision-making. Scale principles include labor, acreage, extensive/ intensive management, and more. All should be understood relative to one another. Use these principles when planning by asking yourself: How does my consideration related to this principle affect the others? For instance, equipment type is an important principle—with great variation. For some growers, hand tools are sufficient, while other farmers require two-wheel or four-wheel tractors. How does this affect other principles of scale? Using scale principles for decision-making can help determine which equipment is enterprise- and scale-suitable and focuses wise investment over time as you scale-up using multi-functional equipment strategies to get more bang for your buck!

Decison Making Matrix

3. Actual Production Acres

One scale principle is Actual Production Acres (APA) of land that is directly managed with equipment (so, excluding buildings, wetlands, and other unmanaged land). This is between ¼ to 13 acres for two-wheel tractor operations, and usually 2–3 acres for market growing. If a Market Grower is considering working more than 2–3 acres, then they may need a two-wheel row crop tractor or even a 4-wheel tractor. Similarly, other scale principles, like labor, may need adjusting to account for a shift in APA.

4. Small-Scale Equipment Spectrum

Small-scale equipment is a spectrum that starts with hand tools at one end, then wheeled tools, and, finally, two-wheel tractors. Four-wheel tractors are really in their category, though they do overlap for some small-scale land management. Professional and larger small-scale enterprises are often highly mechanized, with many different tools and implements—and often have more than one 2-wheel tractor. Knowing this can help you find which equipment scale fits your needs.

Four Ways TO Invest

Equipment type is one of many aspects of scale in balance as growers shift the relationships between space, time, energy, and money. These four ways we invest in projects change the balance of scale principles. For instance, increasing field management from intensive to more extensive is a space investment and will have savings elsewhere, like time from mechanized cultivation efficiency. This may require a new row crop tractor or a more powerful tractor, needing energy (fuel) investment. If we invest money in more types and larger equipment, we need to also consider if more infrastructure (space investment) for storage and maintenance is required. All of these are interconnected. Consider what your weak link is and invest accordingly, for some time is a limiting resource, and for others it is space.

Note: Growers using primarily hand tools and two-wheel tractors may benefit from a compact four-wheel tractor, especially for the use of the loader with bucket, pallet, and hay forks. But this decision should be taken with care, as it begins to mix equipment scales.

Pro Tip: Mixed Equipment-Scale Farming (MES) can be messy since differently scaled pieces of equipment are used together; this requires more know-how, investment, and consideration. However, MES is extremely common for farms over 10 acres and can be very effective—when jobs are assigned scale-suitable equipment. Example: Four-wheel tractors manage larger fields, and two-wheel tractors tend to be used for specialized jobs like greenhouse work, seeding, and cultivation.

5. Three Equipment-Scales

For small-scale growers, there are three main equipment scales; each has a crucial tipping point within scale-up. It’s the weak links in production that will trigger equipment-scale shifts for certain tasks.

“We are ½ acre in raised beds and have 1.5 full-time equivalent workers on the farm. We seem to be around that tipping point where the investment in two-wheel tractors is paying off by doing enough work preparing beds.”

—Josh Volk

In all projects, similar goals may be achieved employing different tools and equipment. Often, these complement one another, and sometimes they replace one another as you scale-up.

6. Intensive/Extensive Land Management

An important scale principle is intensive/extensive land management; its different aspects impact equipment selection. Intensive is partially defined by tighter row spacing and can lead to higher yields per square foot. Extensive refers to management that provides more space to crops, with lower yields per acre; it usually requires more equipment, but typically results in time and labor savings.

Intensive Example: A Market Grower often manages a 1-, 2- or even 3-acre garden intensively, with a two-wheel tractor making many passes per season on each bed, and with multiple crop/cover crop successions producing fresh market vegetables. Labor and input are high, but so are yields.

Extensive Example: A Grassland Farmer manages a 9-acre hay field extensively by cutting once or twice a year to provide hay for their dairy sheep to make artisanal cheeses. The value of 9 acres of hay is drastically lower than the production of a 1-acre market garden, but much less labor and fewer inputs are required.

Can you be extensive on small acreage? Yes, you can grow an acre of garlic in rows 6" apart (intensive), or the same acre of garlic can have rows 15" apart (extensive).

Does increased income justify more equipment? Ironically, intensive management’s higher profit doesn’t necessarily require more equipment, while extensive management usually does. The cost of intensive management is usually labor, imported nutrients, and rapid land turnover techniques. Conversely, the cost of extensive management is space and equipment, but there is a savings in labor, and many inputs can be made in situ, like green manures and mulches, reducing supply imports (See: “Budgeting for Equipment Guilds,”).Write your text here...

Intensive Features (per land unit)

  • Closer row spacing

  • More successions

  • More operation passes

  • Higher inputs

  • Higher yields

  • Higher labor needs

  • Less and smaller equipment

  • Often, higher-value crops, such as vegetables

Extensive Features (per land unit)

  • Wider row spacing

  • No or few successions

  • Fewer operation passes

  • Lower inputs

  • Lower yields

  • Lower labor needs

  • More and larger equipment

  • Often, lower-value crops, such as hay or grain

The limit of two-wheel tractor suitability is not set in stone. There is no magical “acreage ceiling.” That being said, one can get a general sense of the equipment, labor, and actual acreage needs for different enterprises.

7. Scale Phases

Projects grow over time. When you plan your start-up with clear intentions for future enterprises and production acres, you can nurture strategic growth. Pitfalls of unhampered growth include growing beyond your goals and poor equipment investment choices. When you purchase based on pressing problems, you usually end up with equipment that is not complementary or equipment that has rapid obsolescence. Hasty equipment choices may dictate how you grow instead of being chosen for your goals.

All land-based enterprises go through scale phases: from start-up, to scale-up, and finally pro-up. Understanding that there will be scale phases is powerful knowledge to have for budgeting and planning. Examples of scale phases include the process of expanding in acreage, equipment, and profit to become well-established, or a DIY-grower starting up, scaling up, and eventually reaching and transitioning to a professional enterprise at the pro-up phase.

  • At start-ups, growers focus on goal-setting and essential production solutions.

  • With scale-up, growers focus on planning additional projects and productivity.

  • At pro-up, there is a refining of operation cycles and solving of remaining weak links.

  • At your static scale, the focus is on continued steady-state operation!

8. Pro-Up To A Steady-State

The three phases should always be seen about your goals and include an intended static scale—where growth is limited. Your enterprise will grow, but it should stop after the pro-up phase, at which point aspects of your operations, such as the amount of acreage, acquisition of equipment or adding new labor, should stop growing. But since there are always minor shifts from year to year—maybe you grow fewer melons if demand is lower, or maybe you add one extra fieldhand in a year with a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes—but ultimately your production is similar in quantity of land and the quality of production, and the equipment and techniques that you use from year to year. We refer to this management as steady-state (meaning small fluctuations, but overall keeping at the same scale). This steady-state management at your static scale is reached after pro-up, when the intended balance of acreage, equipment, profit, and enterprise types is achieved! All these aspects of production grow and expand during scale phases but no longer grow after the pro-up phase and are instead operated at a static scale with some minor growth or reduction (steady-state) from year to year.

9. Setting A Static-Scale Goal

An enterprise’s static scale is the point of maximum acreage, equipment, and most other growth investments. This is the point at which all scale principles are in relative balance, and management is in a steady-state equilibrium. Once achieved, adjustments only need to be made for unique circumstances or for specific changes in the farm’s overarching goals.

Land stewards must set static-scale goals: acreage, profit, labor, etc. This constrains our designs and planning, revealing correct choices for purchases and equipment-use strategies. Intended static-scale goal-setting helps avoid common pitfalls of ad hoc expansion and equipment acquisition—before a property design and business plan are fully formed. All too often, I’ve seen an unhampered acquisition of “heavy metal” weigh a grower down and make them less flexible to changes in their business plan and enterprise goals. You only get where you want to go by saying where you want to go, and this means setting a scale goal. Consider the example static-scale goal below, and remember to always state goals as an affirmative and to clarify the boundaries of your scale phases!

Pro Tip: The more precisely you define your static-scale goal, the better choices you can make for equipment as you start-up and scale up.

Budgeting With Scale Phases

Scale phases allow better planning and budgeting, including finding seasonal deals on equipment, sourcing them used, and taking time to consider accessories and options. Setting a static scale doesn’t mean your plans can’t change, but it certainly makes a smooth road map to follow, making decision-making pit stops easy-breezy. Equipment Considerations For Scale Phases

Let’s look at equipment considerations for each scale phase for garden-based enterprises

1. Start-up equipment considerations for garden-based enterprises are marked by the initial need to transition lawn or old fields into production acres. Scale-suitable equipment is focused on garden maintenance and enhancing methods used for essential operational cycles, such as bed forming, seedbed preparation, and crop debris management. Tillers and rotary plows are typically used. Hand tools are essential for cultivation, harvest, and post-harvest packing. Some growers start with just hand tools!

2. Scale-up equipment considerations are marked by the need to increase production by using additional mechanization and tackling more mechanized fertility and harvest efficiency. Compost spreaders and a cart for harvest may be needed. A power ridger will make bed reforming a breeze. Also, additional enterprise(s) and/or specialization within the original enterprise often occur, new equipment is selected and multi-functional uses are explored for current implements.

3. Pro-up equipment considerations should be marked by the aim of reaching a static production scale at maximum production acres with a complement of multi-functional equipment to meet all enterprise needs. Highly refined and efficient operational cycles are the goal. This phase fine-tunes equipment and focuses on weak links. Cultivation and seeding equipment may be needed. Investment in post-harvest processes and marketing is typical. New techniques and equipment can be added, but only as thoughtful innovations, not willy-nilly changes in the steady-state system

Note: Sometimes, farms transition to new land or new production goals, and these phases (to some extent) begin anew. But we can learn how to apply our equipment and skills to new contexts!

Equipment Guilds And Operation Cycles

Equipment decision-making can be helped by the design of equipment guilds. A guild is a companionship of three or more mutually beneficial entities. There are guild designs for plants, equipment, and enterprises. Equipment guild design conceptualizes equipment as working together as a unit to complete an operation cycle. An operation cycle is a series of tasks that always go together and must be finished for the successful completion of a specific stage of growth. For instance, the Land Prep Guild (rotary plow, rear-tine tiller, and flail mower) can open new ground, and build, finish, and reform raised beds or Permabeds.

Pro Tip: Equipment guilds are assemblies of multiple implements that help complete an entire operation cycle; they are used to strategize equipment acquisition, multi-year budgeting, and multi-functional use while scaling up for specific enterprises.

1. Why Equipment Guilds?

Equipment guilds put the grower in the mindset of “which implements work well together” to complete whole operation cycles rather than focusing solely on specific tasks. An implement can be part of one equipment guild and also be used in another for a different task. This makes the implements multi-functional. In this way, growers can strategize to bring in implements that work as a guild in their start-up phase to complete entire operation cycles, and then pair some of these implements with new equipment purchases in scale-up and pro-up phases to form other equipment guild combinations.

2. Ways to use equipments

Equipment can be organized singly, by their specialized tasks, or sorted into equipment guilds that complete whole operation cycles—a series of tasks as a unit. Then, there is equipment that can be used for different tasks as part of different operation cycles (multi-functional). Specialized task: Plowing a field for the first time or seeding are examples of specialized tasks.Whole operation cycle: PDR tiller breaks up plow ridges, rotary plow forms raised beds, and power harrow finishes bed tops. This completes the operation cycle of forming new beds.

Multi-functional use: This is when equipment is employed for different projects, performing many tasks within many operations cycles.

The equipment guilds presented here have been designed strategically, and their names hint at their utility. The Land Prep Guild is named for implements that prepare land for gardens, but the guild is also helpful for general land preparation for orchards, landscaping, reforestation, etc. Conversely, the Homestead Guild contains equipment particularly useful to DIY property owners.

Equipment guilds are designed for: Low-risk: Equipment guild recommendations for specific enterprises are generally useful for most people managing that type of enterprise. For example, the Basic Garden Guild is a good choice for most small Backyard Gardeners.

Completing operation cycles: A guild’s implements work together to complete specific work, such as land preparation or cultivation. When scaling up, equipment purchases are staged to spread out costs while still prioritizing completed tasks at each scale phase.

Enterprise-specific: Organized by the type of enterprise, equipment guilds are specifically associated with a management style and enterprise type, such as the Homestead Guild, which has a unique blend of practical, four-season equipment for Homesteaders.

Equipment Guild Example

1. Basic Garden Guild

This set of equipment provides five key seasonal functions at a low initial cost: preparation of new beds, reforming of garden beds, fine seedbed preparation for seeding, mowing to clear land for the new garden plot, and cost-effective cover crop management. You can add on a cart to replace your wheelbarrow to help with fertility additions and harvest loads. Employing this guild is a great way for Backyard Gardeners or Market Growers to start up.

  • Rear-Tine Tiller (26", or similar) is used to open previously worked ground (often the case when planting into suburban lawns), and it prepares seedbeds for planting.

    Note: Rear-tine tiller cannot be used to open hard-packed soil or fill.

  • Hiller/Furrower attachment for the tiller is a low-cost solution for forming paths and effectively designating and building up low-raised beds. It can also furrow a trench for planting potatoes, asparagus, etc.

  • A Brush, Combo, or Flail Mower is used to mow crop debris and cover crops and for basic lawn management. For a Backyard Gardener, the combo mower is a good choice because it has the right price point and serves multiple functions.

  • Add-on: A Buddy Cart is handy for bringing supplies to the field in spring (compost), carrying harvests in summer, and removing debris in fall.

2. Land Prep Guild

This is an essential guild for a Market Grower’s (1–3 acre) start-up and indeed is considered to be one of the best start-up configurations for many enterprises, including Urban Pro Growers working as little as ¼ acre but needing fast garden bed turnover. This is the new essential-three implement guild: rotary plow, flail mower, and rear-tine tiller (although some growers opt for a power harrow over the PDR rear-tine tiller). If you are serious about market growing, choose this equipment guild over the Basic Garden Guild from the get-go. For growers with 1–3 acres, this is the go-to for start-up.

  • A Rotary Plow is used to open land and form raised beds. What the rotary plow does differently from the Hiller/furrower is actually breaking and then displacing soil, as opposed to simply displacing. Therefore it is now the implement of choice for Market Growers who invest earlier in better equipment.

  • The PDR Rear-Tine Tiller (30", or similar) is used for breaking up plow ridges, and then, with the added Precision Depth Roller (PDR), it helps in making finished bed tops by pressing the newly turned soil to make a firm seedbed for better soil-to-seed contact and improving germination.

  • A Flail Mower is used for managing crop debris and cover crops.

  • Add-on: A Subsoiler is used to break up the hardpan and open the soil for water and root penetration. It is especially useful when opening new land initially, such as old clay-based pastureland.

3. Homestead Equipment Guild

This equipment guild adds some great implements to take you from backyard growing with the Basic Garden Guild to full-blown homesteading. This set of equipment allows you to diversify your potential undertakings, including mowing on larger acreage, providing irrigation, and doing winter snow blowing.

  • A Lawn Mower (or other mower) is used to maintain lawns, walkways, garden alleys, and an under-orchard canopy. Choose a lawn mower if you have more flat ground to mow; choose a flail mower if you are mostly focused on cover crop management; and choose a combo mower for a bit of both.

  • A Single-Stage Snow Thrower is used to maintain the edges of buildings, small driveways, and walkways. If you have deep average snowfall or heavy drifting, consider the two-stage model.

  • A Water Transfer Pump is used for small irrigation jobs, removing unwanted localized flood water in ditches and even filling/emptying small ponds or pools. For small Homesteaders, a pump can be attached to your tractor’s PTO and used to transfer water from storage tanks collecting roof water for irrigation.

5. Soil-Building Equipment Guild

This equipment brings fertility management to the efficiency needed for scaling up many land-based enterprises: gardens, homesteads, orchards, afforestation, etc.

  • A Power Harrow is used to prepare and re-prepare fine seedbeds. This is a soil conservation tool because its vertical tine rotation doesn't bury topsoil and won't create a plow pan from the tine "slapping” action of a tiller. For growers making frequent passes when managing intensive market plots, this is a go-to for scale-up. A bumper weight is recommended for most tractor models.

  • A Compost Spreader is used to apply finished compost to a bed top as initial and seasonal fertilization. A 1" spread is the standard seasonal application; more is better, though, when starting a garden from scratch. This implement replaces the wheelbarrow and shovel typically used at start-up.

  • The Power Ridger is used to reform beds efficiently by distributing path soil onto the bed top of two adjacent beds. Using the Compost-a-Path Method, this equipment is key to creating in situ compost. Also helpful for any type of trenching, from planting potatoes to burying irrigation lines.


This equipment mechanizes seeding and in-row/between-row cultivation for extensive row crop systems. This is a great pro-up equipment guild, especially for Market Growers who want to add some extensive crops to their more intensive market garden. However, full-blown Row Crop Farmers will have different equipment guilds for their scale-up phase since they will have different priorities when all the land is managed extensively.

  • A 3-Row Seeder is used to seed crops at a precise depth and equidistant row spacing. The Planet Jr or Jang 3-row seeder are two options. Note: Some growers opt for a multi-row hand seeder (like the Jang) in place of a tractor-mounted one.

  • A Tine (or Wire) Weeder is used to pre-weed (also called false sowing) the bed top before seeding crops, and then blind weeding the crop rows when weeds are at the white thread stage.' (See the Design Box: "Understanding Tillage and Cultivation.")

  • Finger Weeders and Tender Plant Hoes are used to effectively weed in-row and between-row weeds when crops get larger. Finger weeders are made of flexible rubber fingers that dip in a row to remove weeds, and tender plant hoes can cut close to crop rows. Neither tool will harm crops.

  • Add-on: Some growers add a basket weeder or swap it for the tine weeder. It won't blind weed, but it will do an excellent job of pre-weeding and doing tight weed management of tender crops like carrots (where too much soil kicked up into the row affects young seedlings).


This equipment helps Market Growers manage greater numbers of transplanted crops, helping to form and prepare mulched (transplant-ready) garden beds. This is an option for some growers using mulch for transplanting. In this way, beds are raised, and a synthetic roll-out-type mulch is used, and holes are punched through it for planting.

  • A Bed Shaper is used to raise a bed; it works very precisely with a mulch layer accessory (usually about 3" tall).

  • A Mulch Layer is used to roll out poly or biodegradable mulch and can include an optional drip tape layer.

  • Note: Consideration of mulch material is needed to make sure it works with your operation and ethics.

  • A Rolling Dibbler is used to place precise holes in the mulch for planting. This tool is also useful for helping plants into bare soil, as it makes sure the planting is precise— especially useful for crops like garlic.

  • Add-on: Pull-type dibblers for the two-wheel tractor can be made from scratch or modified from the waterwheel transplanter used for four-wheel tractors.


This equipment covers all the basics for serious earth working for the management of trees.

  • A Power Ridger is used to form trenches for planting fruit trees.

  • A Rotary Plow is used to fill trenches around trees for nurseries, reforestation, or orchard planting.

  • A Power Harrow (PDR tiller) is used to soften the edges of tree rows for cover cropping and intercropping and for preparing bed tops for multi-row beds.


This is a great enterprise-specific equipment guild for DIY enterprises looking to manage woodlots.

  • A Log Splitter splits woodlot logs into firewood for homestead heating or sugar shack use.

  • A Chipper/Shredder chips woody material into pieces that can be used to define paths or mulch fruit or maple trees.

  • A Utility Cart's flat bottom makes it useful for hauling sap buckets (5-gallon pails with pressure-fitted lids), and its dumping feature makes it ideal for moving supplies like chip mulch and wood out of the woodlot.

  • Add-Ons: A Brush Mower is useful for clearing thick-diameter weedy plants and small shrubs. A Flail Mower is great for maintaining paths within woodlands.


This is another specialized equipment guild meeting a slew of odd jobs for serious Homesteaders and Back-to-the-Landers.

  • A Pressure Washer keeps vehicles, infrastructure, and equipment clean. Examples: root cellar clean-out in spring, spraying off the farm truck, and cleaning an old barn for a new purpose.

  • A 2-stage Snow Thrower removes snow for farm and homestead lanes and around infrastructure

  • A High-Pressure Irrigation Pump provides water for irrigation. Back-to-the-Landers will have many needs for small-scale irrigation: gardens, orchards, crop fields, and more.


Sickle Bar Mower cuts grass to be dried and raked as hay. A dual-action model is helpful to get big cuts in one pass and reduce operator fatigue.

  • A Hay Rake is used to rake hay into a windrow once it has dried properly. This can also double as a tedder, to shift hay if it needs to dry out more and to dry hay out again if there is a surprise rain.

  • A Round Baler is used to collect the hay windrows and roll them into tight, round bales and wrap them with synthetic bale wrap mesh.

  • Add-on: A Compost Spreader is used to distribute compost into the hay fields to enrich them with fertility. Note: The compost spreader is not a manure spreader and cannot handle bulky material.


Most equipment here could serve a Landscaper who installs gardens, orchards, and lawns. The Groundskeeper, however, mainly maintains these features and may need more equipment for a full complement of lawn care services.

  • A Dethatcher removes layers of thatch and improves the aeration of a lawn, which helps to fill in dead patches. This implement has a 26" working width.

  • A Compost Spreader applies compost to improve lawn growth.

  • A Lawn Mower maintains a lawn at a precise height and can either side-discharge or bag the clippings.


Most equipment here could serve a Landscaper who installs gardens, orchards, and lawns. The Groundskeeper, however, mainly maintains these features and may need more equipment for a full complement of lawn care services.

  • A Dethatcher removes layers of thatch and improves the aeration of a lawn, which helps to fill in dead patches. This implement has a 26" working width.

  • A Compost Spreader applies compost to improve lawn growth.

  • A Lawn Mower maintains a lawn at a precise height and can either side-discharge or bag the clippings.

Guild Enterprise Production

When deciding to grow food, we want everything! Focus is the name of the success game, while diversity is the name of the resilience game ... so, how do we balance these? Guild enterprise production is about focused diversity for your land-based business. Let's look at how this model helps orient grower goals and equipment choices over scale phases. Growers should work toward a harmony of no more than three enterprises that balance, share, and inform one another's land use, seasonal labor, equipment, and other scale principles. Sometimes, enterprises are added as you scale up; sometimes all enterprises are initiated at start-up and scale up together. Goals for intended enterprises and relationships between enterprises, such as equipment sharing, should be made from the get-go. Organize your intended enterprises around access to land, your vision, skills, labor availability, and management style. Then use your enterprise goals to bring in the right equipment as you scale up to avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes


There are many enterprise types and many different ways of organizing them. First, we have DIY vs professional enterprises. Are you producing to save money or make money? Next, a guild of enterprises can be either more similar or dissimilar. Examples of similar enterprises include a DIY grower specializing in spring, summer, and fall gardening, and a professional grower producing summer CSA crops, wholesale garlic, and root cellar vegetables. Also, enterprises often can be defined as more intensive or extensive. A backyard garden production with three enterprises becomes a Back-to-the Lander at a certain point, where the acreage under production justifies a new term. A Market Grower could turn into a Row Crop Farmer, etc.


  • Expansion of a DIY-type enterprise to become more productive. Example: A backyard garden becoming a homestead and finally expanding into a Back-to-the-lander with more or less similar DIY enterprises

  • DIY-type enterprise becoming a professional enterprise with more productivity and commercial sales. Example: A backyard garden including a market garden and/or other commercial productions as a guild enterprise production.

  • Scaling-up can involve expansion within your enterprise to be more specialized and/or adding more actual production acres. Examples: A Market Grower scales up production of specific crops, forms a seed garlic business, or root cellar sales are added to original summer vegetable production.

  • Scaling up can involve expansion by adding other enterprises that complement your start-up enterprise. Example: A Market Grower who starts an orchard and adds a chicken tractor to be rotated among the fruit trees or within the cover crop garden plots.

  • Note: Landscapers, Groundskeepers, and Custom Farming are their own enterprises, and they can use their equipment to professionally help others scale-up (by tilling a lawn to become a market garden, for example). Using and providing these services is another way two-wheel tractors contribute to the new food revolution with edible landscaping and custom small farming.

Equipment For Evolving Enterprise

Consider the example of a Market Grower whose intended static scale is 3 acres and a guild enterprise production with three similar enterprises: intensive growing of summer vegetables, Permabed orchard producing small berries and fruits, and extensive growing of root cellar crops, such as carrots and beets. Equipment is purchased in phases to spread out the cost and ensure proper decision-making. Initial equipment is purchased in light of eventual scaling-up. The strategy here is to:

  • Focus on one enterprise at start-up, and invest in an equipment guild that covers operation essentials.

  • Scale up by improving your initial enterprise and begin integrating your second enterprise. Assess how your initial equipment guild can help your second enterprise, too. Then bring in a second equipment guild that covers any essential tasks for your second enterprise that are not covered by current equipment.

  • Add your third enterprise, and choose equipment that solves weak links across all three enterprises. In the pro-up phase, you should focus on refining systems, not necessarily adding lots of new equipment. Adding accessories or shifting strategies to maximize current equipment is the priority—then purchase for weak links.

  • Note: Growers may not add enterprises in a linear sense (one in each scale phase); they may be working with all three from the get-go. The crux is focused on equipment investment in each scale phase to complete operation cycles—always considering multi-functional uses across different enterprises. Be strategic. Don't over- or under-invest!

Sometimes growers will scale-up by evolving their production from DIY to professional.

Guild Enterprise Brainstorming Template

Understanding your guild enterprise production is critical for farm planning, and it is never too late to start! This template can be used to help brainstorm your guild enterprise production by asking key questions and providing space for equipment guild selection in a balanced manner.

5-Acre Property Example

This is an example of a 5-acre property using the Enterprise Brainstorm Template. See key questions below with example answers. Use these for your brainstorming.

Equipment Design Testing Questions

  • Are you suburban, urban, or rural? Example: Suburban, just within city limits, zoned rural residential.

  • Are you extensive or intensive? Example: Intensive, often 3 or 5 rows per bed, 12" footpaths, 2–3 successions per bed per season.

  • What are your actual production acres? Example: 5 acres, 1.75 arable, .25 for buildings, and 3 in woodlot.

  • What are your intended actual production acres? Example: 4.75 acres will be used actively for production; no other land is going to be rented or used.

  • What is your intended guild of enterprises? Example: Backyard Garden/ Sugar Bush/Market Garden.

  • Are these enterprises similar or dissimilar? Example: Dissimilar; I will need to invest in more types of equipment, skill-building, etc.

  • Are enterprises DIY or professional? Example: Mixed; this model will provide both profit and enhance well-being and resilience for me and my community.

  • What is your scale-up timeline for different enterprises? Example: First Garden, then Sugar Bush, then Market Garden over 3–4 years.

  • Will you mechanize most operations as you scale-up? Why? Example: Yes, because I have a shortage of consistent labor, and their time will be focused on harvest and other tasks that cannot be tractor-mechanized easily. Hand tools will complement the basic garden guild at start-up and will continue to be used, but implements will replace some key functions later—like opting for a compost spreader and utility cart instead of a wheelbarrow and extra hands for compost jobs and hauling.

  • Which equipment guilds will accomplish tasks and operation cycles for each scale phase? Example: Basic Garden, Forester, and Homestead guilds.

  • Which equipment guilds will accomplish all needed operation cycles for your static scale? Hint: These should be the same as in number 10! Example: Basic Garden, Forester, and Homestead guilds.

Example Of 5-Acre Scale Phases

Start-up with the Basic Garden Guild for backyard garden enterprise. Rent or hire out plowing, then use the Hiller/furrower to form Permabeds, and the buddy cart to move compost, supplies, and harvests. Option: Choose the Land Prep Guild at start-up if you are sure about an intended market garden at pro-up. Ask yourself: What is my goal?

Scaling up with Forester Guild and adding maple syrup enterprise. A wood splitter processes undesired trees into firewood for evaporators, and a utility trailer is used to move firewood and syrup collection pails to the sugar shack. A shredder/chipper makes use of excess branches as chip mulch for trails in woodlots and paths in a garden—carted around using the buddy cart. So, we see how enterprises and equipment work together! A flail mower is purchased as an add-on to help with garden crop debris management and Sugar Bush path mowing.

Pro-up with the Soil-Building Guild. This adds a compost spreader, power harrow, and power ridger. The spreader is a welcome relief for compost management, and it allows seasonal applications of compost made from woodlot leaf fall (windrowed and turned with a tiller). The power harrow improves soil structure with better depth control and no mixing of layers. The power ridger is used to reform beds and power compost the paths. Add-on: A two-stage snow blower can be purchased to improve overall property access in winter and early spring.

Note: Equipment is never obsolete and always multi-functional. The buddy cart has continued use for hauling vegetables and for odd jobs around the Sugar Bush lot. The utility trailer is employed to move transplant trays from the new greenhouse to the fields.

Pro Tip: It’s important to understand your property’s constraints (like the soil type and current land use), set intentions for scale (actual acreage), make goals for enterprises (garden, syrup, market garden), and then select equipment guilds and organize their purchase for different scale phases.

Budget For Tractors and Equipment

Part of the equation for equipment decision-making is literally the equation—the mathematical one. We need funds to purchase equipment, and we need to use those funds wisely. So taking the time to do the math before spending is quite important. Part of this is understanding how equipment saves money as well as how it makes it, and how the way you manage your land with equipment can lead to profit—but also resilience in the face of socio-economic and environmental change.



The goal is profitability, whether for a DIYer or a professional. A Homesteader should have a return on investment in savings as much as a commercial grower makes income.

  • Profit is a measure of income minus expenses. This should also include a wage for the farm owner(s). So, profit should be what is left over after all expenses are met, including a reasonable hourly wage.

  • Profit can then be invested back into the business or divided as dividends among the farm owners or business co-op members.

  • Profitable farms can afford to invest in themselves. However, profit isn't a reason to buy equipment! Rather, equipment decision-making, as we have seen, comes from understanding scale and creating goals for a static scale of specified enterprises.

  • Yet, profit does contribute to cash flow, alongside grants, loans, and prior savings. Enterprises can be seen as either shorter- (vegetables) or longer-term (orchard) profit centers.

  • Enterprises can be seen as either shorter- (vegetables) or longer-term (orchard) profit centers. Investment in equipment for short-term enterprises can be readily justified with annual earnings. Long-term profit centers should rely on grants and sound budget-backed loans, as real profit takes more years.

  • Crowd-funding and advance support from customers is another source of start-up cash flow. Feeding your community and gaining support is one reason to grow diverse foods that provides food security and not just high profit per square foot production!


  • More extensive farms might use agroecological methods like green manures, intercropped perennials/annuals, and in situ mulch production of straw and ramial chipped wood (RCW). This will require more equipment investment—justified not in higher profit per square foot, but in more profit resilience! Farms that control the quality of their weed-free compost and mulches can save on imported mulch costs; these savings can be invested in other farm resources, such as ponds or long-term tree crops. The testimony to a lack of investment in resilience comes with droughts, seed shortages, and poor-quality mulches blooming scutch grass in your garlic!

  • Farms growing mixed vegetables often have less profit than lettuce farms because they grow lower profit/square foot crops. They also will often require more tools and equipment to meet their diverse needs. Again, this equipment investment is justified in social capital building by providing a well-rounded diet and food security to your community that can support you in hard seasons.

  • Farms investing in ecosystem design are literally growing future profit potential. When trees and crops are layered, there is actually more net primary productivity; more sunlight is captured and converted to crop and fruit. Examples of ecosystem farming include intercropped Asian pears, hazelnuts, and black raspberries, with intensive lettuces thriving in the dappled shade in August and rows of self-seeding kales that are ready to bunch before you can even prepare a new bed top! Here, equipment to manage perennials is justified by the long-term profit potential.


  • The 1/2-acre start-up farm focused on only high-profit crops has fewer equipment needs and will focus on very specific equipment guilds for operation cycles. They will often include very specialized equipment for harvest and post-harvest handling in the scaleup and pro-up phases.

  • On the other hand, the more extensive and diversified farm will need more equipment types. They will often add new enterprises over the years and bring in equipment guilds to suit. The key is always considering how your implements can serve different functions across your multiple enterprises to keep costs low.


  • As we discussed, profit can be deceiving as a benchmark for when to invest in equipment.

  • Growers can make $100,000 on 1-acre, or $300,000 on 2-acre, or $400,000 on 5 acres. Remember, (income - expense = profit). Increasing income or decreasing expenses can increase profit.

  • Sometimes, equipment is needed because it produces a high profit per acre, but equipment may also be valued by input savings, social capital building, long-term profit aims, and overall resilience.

  • There are five key ways to cover upfront costs of equipment, infrastructure, and initial supply purchases:

    • 1) use savings

    • 2) get a business and/ or family loan

    • 3) get project-specific and other grants

    • 4) use an upfront income model like Community Supported Agriculture or a Kickstarter-type scenario, and

    • 5) maximize government and other program start-up funding. Starting my farm, I used most of these over the first five years as I scaled up to hundreds of CSA shares, two large urban farmers markets, on-farm events, and online sales.

High Profit Matrix

Paying attention to these factors can create high net profit in a single growing season—as much as $1,000 to $3,000 per 100 ft bed ($100,000 to $300,000 per acre).

Now, let’s go through a series of questions to help sort out which tractors and equipment are best for different growers.

Which Tractor Options Suit My Enterprise(S)?

Professionals prefer models with features suited to specific operation cycles, such as M2w-tractors or row crop tractors with specific implements (sometimes both are needed). Smaller DIY enterprises often find that tractors with lower-cost basic features are sufficient for part-time use. For gardeners and homesteaders, the M2w-tractor is all that is needed.

Backyard Gardener Example: A smaller horsepower tractor with fewer features is perfectly capable of preparing your garden each year and doing other jobs around the property, like snow blowing. Market Grower Example: A tractor with a differential drive can make maneuvering between plots much easier, and it also allows you to lock the differential for field tillage. Also, choose a model that has enough energy for the power-hungry flail mower. Grassland Farmer Example: A hydrostatic drive would be well-suited to operations with a lot of mowing.

Which implements can be of use to fulfill my specific job?

Sometimes a single implement is all you need—or it may be an important add-on that is needed for a specific job.

Backyard Gardener Example: With a ¼-acre garden, a rear-tine tiller with a furrower could be all you need. Nursery Example: The power ridger can both furrow for planting trees and fill in those furrows. If trees are all you grow, then this may be all you need!

Which implements work well together to complete my seasonal operations?

Professionals opt for equipment to finish entire operation cycles in a timely and profitable manner. DIY enterprises tend to use equipment that meets several needs and is more likely to be of use through all four seasons. However, the same selection process should be used for both types of managers: group implements into guilds that can complete operation cycles when possible!

Market Grower Example: Bed preparation is a key operation cycle that can be mechanized. The rotary plow forms new beds, the rear-tine tiller with PDR makes a seedbed, and the flail mower mows cover crops. These three implements can be used to form an equipment guild for land preparation. This Land Prep Equipment Guild is popular with many Market Gardeners.

Can your equipment guild be used for other operation cycles?

Market Grower Example: The Land Prep Guild is multi-functional! The flail mower can mow an initial stand of cover crops or weeds when clearing land; the rotary plow can plow new land into furrows for a future garden; and the rear-tine tiller can be used to break up the furrows for future bed forming.

Can your enterprise use more than one set of equipment?

Yes, as you scale up your operation, you will often find new equipment can be brought on as a guild.

Market Grower Example: At start-up, the Land Prep Guild is great, while scaling up with a Soil-Building Guild is a good choice.

What is a reasonable budget for a two-wheel tractor and equipment?

As a wise farmer once said: “It is easy to buy too much heavy metal too quickly!” By assembling equipment into guilds and having an intended scale, you can budget accordingly. A two-wheel tractor starts at around $2,000, and most professional growers will spend around $4,500. Three implements will usually cost around $4,000, and a second equipment guild to scale-up might add an additional $3,000.

Budget For Equipment Guilds

The table shows a series of tractor and equipment budgets for enterprises that are related. The table can be understood as showing three distinct enterprises, or it can be viewed as showing a process of scaling up from one to the next. These equipment budgets and income estimates are based on highly profitable enterprise management. Know-how is also important, and this is why a Backyard Gardener will never make as much in sales or savings as a professional Market Grower on the same acreage. Skill-building and proper equipment/supplies are required for bigger sales/savings. Local markets are also important to consider; in some areas, prices for fresh local organic produce can be double the price of grocery store produce.