Traditional trucks and tractors and the various implements they pull have saved countless hours of labor and will continue to do so. Now, however, the smaller, lighter versions have become affordable even for hobby farmers. Someone will always need a pruner or post-hole digger. And can you call yourself a farmer without a pitchfork, hay rake and hoe?
Computers, mobile phones, tablets and GPS have helped add precision to everything from crop dusting to moisture-level analysis for years. Once out of reach for all but the most substantial commercial concerns, digital agricultural tools have gotten cheaper every year. When the granary docks your grain harvest for having too high a moisture content to make it to market without growing moldy in the silo, your $400 digital grain moisture analyzer looks like an investment rather than an expense.
Security cameras, motion sensors and silent alarms have helped prevent the rampant thefts of crops such as pumpkins, watermelons, almonds and avocados that have plagued so many orchards and fields in the past few years. Incidents like one in California in June 2017 where avocados valued at $300,000 were stolen from a ripening facility make security a must. Cargo thieves absconded with over $9,000,000 worth of California nuts in 2016. Pilferers netted close to $3,000 worth of pumpkins in a single heist in Buckeye, Arizona in October 2016. Motion sensors, cameras and quadcopters with 360-degree photo capabilities make it easier to identify and arrest thieves before they can sell the goods.
This category holds the most extensive array of traditional agricultural equipment: tractors, manure spreaders, fertilizer and insecticide sprayers, plows, cultivators, harrows, planters, harvesters, balers, wagons and trucks weighing more than one ton, with six- to-18 wheels.
Larger concerns can’t afford to farm without these big-ticket items, while smaller farms and ranches may band together to buy or lease tractors, trucks and the implements they pull. The tractor pulls the plow through each field in spring or fall, followed by the disc or harrow. Once the planter trails through the pasture, the wait begins. At the end of summer, the harvester takes grain and leaves the hay behind, or takes corn and leaves silage. After a few days of drying time, a baler turns all that chaff into round or square bales. Large trucks transport the entire harvest from field to packinghouse to store.
Hobby farmers and homesteaders have a tractor-drawn or a walk-behind tiller at their disposal.With the right lawn tractor, a hobby farmer can plow everything from a kitchen garden to one of the long, narrow land parcels known as “bowling-alley” lots. Snowmobiles and 4-wheelers help ranchers and other livestock farmers haul feed and round up stock, run fencelines or harass predators.
Automated irrigation is the linchpin of the agricultural world. Without irrigation, neither crops nor livestock maintenance creates any profit. Scrubbers, conveyors, sizing, sorting and packing equipment allow the farmers, ranchers, nursery and hatchery owners to maintain their supply chains, keeping cash in their own pockets instead of enriching intermediaries.
And finally, you have all the tools you call to mind when you picture small farms: spades, pruners, shovels, rakes, hoes and post-hole diggers. For livestock farmers, you see tagging, tattooing, vaccinations and gelding supplies. Although hand tools cost less, they sometimes require intense labor.